One of the Bible readings in church yesterday was from the book of John. Jesus said,
I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.
(John 13:34-35 NRSV)
But what does it really mean to love one another? Paul addressed this question in I Corinthians 13, a passage frequently read at weddings.
Love is patient;
Love is kind;
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.
[I Corinthians 13: 4-7 NRSV]
But even this reading is somewhat abstract. Tanya, one of the inmates in the county jail, wrote her own poetic reflection on what it means to her when Jesus says to love one another. I talked with Tanya last Thursday after the women’s worship service, and asked her if I could use her reflection in my blog sometime. She was happy to give me permission, although she prefers that I not identify her by her full name.
First, let me describe the context of Tanya writing this reflection. Several weeks ago, during Lent, in one of the worship services, the chaplain gave us about 15 minutes to do something creative to express our feelings. A couple of the women drew pictures. One young woman drew a picture of herself giving a birthday present to her little boy. She said she hoped to be out of jail in time to be home for his birthday. I played the piano – whatever hymns and spirituals came into my mind. One of the women told me she recognized every song I played. Tanya wrote a reflection on what love means to her. That 15 minutes was probably the most peaceful part of the day for all of us.
After listening again yesterday in church to what the Bible says about loving one another, I think now is a good time to share Tanya’s reflection on love.
Love is praying for my enemies –
In the same way I pray for my family
Love is growing in God –
Every day in every way
Love is not only knowing that angels are near –
But feeling them touch my soul
Love is willingness to give all –
And at the same time receive none
Love is a trust that never wavers –
No matter what stands in your way
Love is loving more than you know how –
Yet expecting nothing in return
Love is the melting of your soul –
In the coldest day you’ve known