The pastor is praying and the woman in the pew in front of me has an oxygen tank. She’s breathing in and out and it’s soothing, but also jarring, because you don’t realize how much you need oxygen until you stop being able to breathe.
And I reckon the same can be said about love.
Love is holding my hands, all calloused with a wedding ring on its right finger, and a scar where he cut himself with a Cutco knife years ago doing a knife presentation for Cutco.
We’re taking communion together, and there are kids up in the balcony and we’re surrounded by gray hair and the sound of the oxygen tank, in and out, and I start to cry.
For all of the broken hearted; for those for whom love is not just a man away.
I think of Friday night, of the young couple who came to our house, and we’ve known him for a decade now—my husband mentored him in high school—and she’s pregnant for the second time in four months and they’d just broken up. And the young man tells us, after a game of Settlers and a beer, after our kids have been bathed and put to bed and the house is quiet enough to hear the woman’s heart bleeding.
He tells us that he doesn’t think he’s ever loved her.
A single tear falls down her cheek, like all of those films, only this is flesh and blood sitting right beside me, with long thin arms and black hair and they’ve been living together for a year and a half. He met her after taking a course on how to pick up women. He used all of the lines on her, the lines he learned in the course, and later he’d use them on other women too, while still with her.
And it didn’t hit him until we were sitting there that night, that maybe he’d hurt her. That maybe all of those texts in which he’d said he loved her, while partying with other girls, weren’t enough for her. That maybe living together wasn’t enough for her. That maybe she’d had enough of falling in love, and all she wanted was to walk in it–to hold its hand, without the crash of the fall, without the break of the fall, without the lies of the Fall.
Their whole relationship had been a lie.
And the truth about love is this:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” — 1 Corinthians 13:5-8
Love does nothing for itself, and everything for the other.
So now I’m curled over my knees, sobbing in the pew, for this girl who’s carrying a baby born out of deception. I’m sobbing for all of the children born to single parents who believed they were loved, but love is more than a partner, love is more than a queen sized bed, love is more than a parked car or a dinner and movie, love is more.
And yes, there are days—maybe even months—where I don’t feel it, and so I can relate, but I’m learning to live it, with every breath, because love is an oxygen tank, is the hand that will hold you when you’re arthritic, is the hug that will sustain you when you lose your job, is the eyes that will look into yours and say I Am Here For You—because everyone needs someone who knows their middle name, their favorite color, whether or not they cry at sad movies and how they like their steak.
We’re eating the cubes of brown bread now —
drinking the communion wine and the sound of glasses clinking in the cup holders. The woman’s still breathing, the pastor’s still praying, and all around me are hearts that have been broken, including mine I suppose.
And after church I pick up my son and I hug him, because the only way to fix the world is to fix myself, to start at home, with the ones in my care. All I can do is choose to be love incarnate for them, and hope there will be a ripple effect.
That our sons and daughters would not just fall in love but remain in love, forever and ever, through sickness and health, until death do us part. Amen.
Photo Credit: Amanpreet Kaur, Creative Commons