“…like the flame of a candle…”

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True love is something we all aspire to find in our lives.  We experience so many different types of love.  My first “crush” was a boy named “Armando” when I was twelve.  He had a crush on me, too, and used to walk me home from school; but we did not even touch! No hand-holding permitted!  He was allowed on our doorstep, but no further.  He dedicated a song to me on the radio (something that used to be a regular thing when I was a kid) and I thought I would burst with joy. I often think of that time of my life and cringe a little bit, but also smile.  It is amazing how many twists and turns our lives take, in pursuit of “true love.”

Throughout my childhood and into my early adulthood, I was dedicated to the ultimate search for “true love” and I realize now that it was nothing more than me, trying to fill a hole that only God can occupy.  In this noisy, confusing world, we try to cram as much into living as we possibly can.  Life is lived at breakneck speed and we most often leave a wake behind us consisting of poor choices, questionable decisions, and often, broken hearts.

“In the Christian life, temptations and tests or trials of our spiritual condition are necessary; and as our life, like the furniture of a house, becomes covered with various stains, it is necessary to cleanse it. As for testing objects made, for instance, of silver, instruments are required, so likewise for testing the state of the soul, men are required, like for like, who, willingly or unwillingly, intentionally or quite unthinkingly, show us by their conduct in relation to us, in a manner apparent both to ourselves and others, whether we are obedient to God’s commands, declared to us in the Gospel, or not–whether we live according to the spirit, mortifying in ourselves the desires of the flesh, or according to the flesh, being obedient slaves to the will of the flesh and to carnal thoughts and passions; so that we, recognizing that we are not living in accordance with the will of God, not in accordance with the commandments of our Sweetest Savior, but in accordance with our own sinful and blind will, may speedily amend and zealously follow the commandments of the Divine Gospel.”  (St John of Kronstadt)

And thanks be to God, my experimental lifestyle came to a crashing halt when I met my husband, over 30 years ago.  He was a breath of fresh air and a light for my life.  His faith was a beacon to me, and I was drawn to it almost as much as I was drawn to the man.  I recall kneeling next to him in prayer at Church, while I was still exploring my own faith, and glancing over at him and realizing that his faith was so deep and so intense, I know I could have stood up and left at that moment and he would not have noticed I was missing, until he had finished his prayers.  He pursued his love of God throughout our marriage and eventually entered the Diaconate, where he found his ultimate joy, serving at the Altar.  And his faith radiated out to others who witnessed his love of God, most especially when serving.  Once his vestments came on, he became a Deacon first and foremost, and all the other roles in his life became secondary.  It is a wondrous transformation to witness.  Our journey together has brought us to many highs and many lows….that pretty much describes marriage for most people.  Along the way we have become a part of a community, and we have departed communities.  We have made and lost friends, we have created life and mourned death.  It is a wondrously-intertwined experience and I relish the memories of it all.

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As we vowed to remain together for life, it also was a vow to live a life of faith, together.  The crowns we wore symbolized the nature of married life and the nature of how we treat all those who come into our circle of married life.  Our children have found wives that enlighten their lives and they are blessed now with children of their own.  It was my distinct pleasure to spend a week with our eldest son on the occasion of his son’s first birthday. It was the first time I have been in their home, as they live in Alaska and he has spent most of their marriage deployed in war time.  The week I spent with them was my first chance to see their marriage in action, in their own home.  I cannot express the joy I felt at seeing how much they love one another and as a mother, I was overjoyed at the love his wife has, for my son. It is all a mother wants for her son, to find a wife that will enrich and bless his life.

Our middle son and his wife are expecting their first child in a few months and they know already that it is a girl.  We are so excited, already referring to her by name, and already loving her so very much.  They have been married 8 months now and their lives are very fluid and flexible, with their futures still undecided.  It was a joy to spend a week with them prior to their wedding, in preparation for their vows.  The mother of my daughter-in-law and I were friends through our homeschooling group and we commented once that we should set them up – we were successful!  We did not realize what a great fit they would be for each other and both families were overjoyed at their engagement and marriage.  I don’t think my friend and I ever envisioned being grandmothers together, but it is an incredible feeling.

It is amazing how far our love can go, how stretched we can be to include others in our lives.  The amount of love you have inside of you is infinite, because God will assist you in loving the seemingly unlovable.  We throw away people in our culture in so many ways.  We have abortion readily available and becoming even more the norm than it has been – what a tragedy! We have homeless people who do not belong on the streets for a myriad of reasons (mental health being just one); we throw away so much of humanity without a second thought, and that is just so very sad to Our Lord. Each and every life is precious and each and every person deserves our best, as a culture, and as individuals.

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We are all created in the image and likeness of God and if we allow ourselves to love with that “Agape” type of love that only God can share with us, it is amazing, truly amazing, where that love can take us.  Our circles grow and grow, and encompass more and more people, with the type of love that God shares with us.  We can love people through prayer and through participation in worship.  We can add names to prayer lists without even meeting the person.  Each time we are asked to pray for someone, even if we just stop for a moment and whisper, “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner…and I hold —- up to you in prayer.”  It is a simple way to expand our circle of God’s love for others.  We need not feel that we are bound to take in every homeless person we see, nor are we obligated to feel guilt at passing by that person standing by the freeway exit with a sign declaring they are homeless.  We can, however, pay attention to the homeless shelters in our area; we can volunteer at soup kitchens; we can extend ourselves in so many ways to show our love for our fellow man.  As the quote at the top of this post states, each time we light another candle, that original candle’s flame is not diminished.  I often feel that the more we show the love of God to others, the more God’s love grows in us, and the more we give to others, the more we are given by God.  It is amazing how good it feels to clean up a kitchen after feeding the homeless.  Exhausted? Yes.  Stinky with food and sweat?  You bet.  Happy and satisfied?  Most definitely.  At our parish where we used to live in SoCal, we would feed the homeless and then walk over to the Church for Evening Prayers.  And my heart would be soaring over the people we had touched and having served the poor of our area.  It is an incredible feeling, to help others.  And all of this I experienced (and continue to experience) because I searched for, and found, the love that would fill that hole within my heart.  We are capable of more loving in this life than we can imagine; we just need to trust and love as easily and simply as Jesus Christ instructed us,

A new commandment I give you, to love one another; that as I have loved you, you also may love one another.” (John 13:34)

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