My faith needs bolstering these days. In general, it feels like Rocky after a few rounds with Clubber Lang…taking quite a few hits and finding itself on the ropes, hoping for the bell to ring to end the round and catch its breath before it keels over.
It is primarily my faith in people that is so wounded, after these last years of division and vitriol. We have siloed ourselves and shouted in echo chambers and across social media platforms to tear each other apart with little thought of impact or consequences.
“Us” and “them” is deeply rooted in our psyches, and I am weary from it all.
In those initial, scary weeks when the pandemic struck, I hoped that maybe a tiny positive byproduct of it would be its common enemy status—that we would come together to fight this invisible villain in order to save lives.
We did not.
While we may rise to the occasion…we fall to the everyday.
Yes, people come together in times of crisis. When Harvey ravaged Houston and people drove around in boats rescuing anyone they could find, they noted how it didn’t matter what your politics were—just get in the boat. Moments of coming together? Sure. Continued, concerted everyday efforts? Well, that’s unfortunately a different story.
Consequently, my faith is wobbly from the heart punches it has sustained and the loss it has witnessed…and I long for a way to renew it. I think that is why, as I wondered if a word for 2022 would find me, as it has for the last several years, the word “faith” was knocking on my heart.
But then bell hooks passed. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined her. And as I looked for my next thing to listen to while I do my morning exercises, Bishop Michael Curry’s Love Is the Way presented itself to me on my audiobook playlist. In listening to his Morgan Freeman-esque voice, my word for the year fell right into my heart: Love…It must be. Because it is only through love that my faith can regrow in the fertile soil of agape, and not just for me alone.
Agape, one of the seven words to describe love in the Greek language, is defined by Bishop Curry as a “sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, of the world.” And in our current times, it feels like there is a gaping hole where agape love should be firmly established.
People like Curry and hooks and Tutu have lived lives dedicated to teaching that love is THE gamechanger. It is a verb—an action—that, heals, redeems, and brings about true change. It is a choice we make daily. It is what Jesus made plain: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)
So…with love determining itself to be my word of the year—what exactly does this mean for me? After all, it’s not exactly a newsflash. I know love is the way.
It feels more like it is to be a recommitment.
And since agape is manifested in action, I will need to recommit to…act more. Learn. Listen. Serve. Share. Pray. Give. And more that I have yet to know.
But please do not see this as a New Year’s resolution. I am in no way thinking that with this guidance for the year—and my life—that I just need to keep at it like any other “goal.” Oh, no, no, no, no…no. This is a reminder for me to continue to wrestle with the call to love one another and live a life of love. It’s a biggie. There are those who are easy to love, and then there are those who…are not easy to love. And the call is to love the whole smash. And live it out in action. A tall order. Something that I must practice day in and day out.
And in my wearied state of wobbly faith, I don’t approach it glibly. But I do know that love wins, so even in my weariness, I must recommit to doing my best to live that love. Because otherwise? Otherwise, not only love and faith are at risk but hope, too. And where do I go from there?
I do not want to know.
So here is to 2022 being a year that plants seeds of love that develop into generous, thriving gardens of faith, hope…and more and more love.
To love, my brothers and sisters, does not mean we have to agree. But maybe agreeing to love is the greatest agreement. And the only one that ultimately matters, because it makes a future possible.
―Michael B. Curry, Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times
The choice to love is a choice to connect―to find ourselves in the other.
―bell hooks, all about love
Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
―1 Corinthians 13:13