The Only Way I Can Love

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver's stunning words above paint a vivid picture of escaping the life lived consumed by the voices surrounding you. The words remind my soul of its need for solitude with the Lord. The conclusion of the poem offers that the only life that I can save is my own. Experience has shown me, I can't even do that! What I am taking away is the gentle reminder of the dire importance of the order of the commands Jesus passed on to us as the most important: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31) Should I run from those who are hurting in self preservation? Of course not! However, loving God has to come before loving people.

I've spoken of the personal suffering I've experienced as I've tried to be my own savior.  Well, I should add also  the suffering that comes when I try to be your savior too! There is so much pain in the world; so many who are broken, hurting and in need and the pain cries out to us for help. Jesus teaches us that each and every cry matters. Walking with those who are suffering is walking on holy ground. It is a privilege to weep with those who weep and to offer comfort as we have been comforted. That's what I hope to do here.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
— Galations 6:9-10

However, if I attempt to love my neighbor without first loving God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength, all that I'm really offering is myself instead of our Savior. Friends, I just don't have that much to offer on my own! It is only out of the overflow of His goodness that I have anything good to say. It is only out of the lavish abundance of His love that I can express love to you. If you experience kindness, or patience, gentleness or faithfulness from me, it is out of the grace of the Holy Spirit. On my good days I can muster up these fruits seemingly on my own, but my efforts leave me exhausted, accusatory and self-inflated. When you experience this fruit out of the depths of my brokenness I am left humble, grateful and in awe of our God. His strength is made great in my weakness and that is what I hope you will experience here.

I see new readers finding this site and I am so excited! (yes, I can see you) I am humbled and blessed that anything I write here would be an encouragement to you. God can take the brokenness of our lives and make it beautiful as we share and walk with each other in love. He has met me on my darkest days and I believe He will meet you too. I hope and pray that He would use this site as an affirmation of His love and care for you, whatever you are facing today. I am tempted to try to "save" you by offering the perfect words of hope that you need. I ask for God to help me with my words here and He gently reminds me that it is not my job to save you - He's got that under control. He loves us all with an unfailing,steadfast love that can reach to wherever you are today dear one.  As the voices of pain cry out, maybe you'll find that one of them is your own. Take a moment to be quiet and restore your soul with the truth of His love for you.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
— John 3:16, The Message

This, holy week, we are reminded of the greatest love of all. It is stunning. It is real. It is yours.