“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
As I steadily approach Thanksgiving, quickly followed by the one-year anniversary of my job loss in early December, I have reflected quite a bit on what I am grateful for, and what I have learned. If I could sum it up in a phrase, it would be, “There is love.” For sure, there have been realizations, profound ones, about faith and hope. But, essentially, all of these revelatory roads lead to, and rest upon, love. These thoughts have built over time, and crystalized for me on a beach in New Jersey in late September at the wedding of my cousin.
It was an absolutely brilliant morning. About 50 of us walked from the catering hall to a nearby area of deserted beach that had a beautiful white canopy adorned with brightly colored flowers. The ocean sparkled with diamond slivers dancing with the sun. The air was warm, the breeze light, and the sound of the surf hypnotic and perfectly blended with the wedding music. It was one of those transcendental moments when you feel completely in sync with the people and world around you, and you just know that there has to be a greater force orchestrating this peace, this perfection, this love.
During the ceremony, the minister talked about the timelessness of both the sea and love as demonstrative of the hand of God. My cousin talked about how she found hope and confidence in her true self in her groom. Over the years, she had experienced difficulties, a failed first marriage and financial struggles. But she never ceased being a loving person. On the contrary, it was she that always tried to bring that side of our family together despite years of dysfunctional feuding. She met her new husband four years ago at a class reunion that she almost did not attend because it was too expensive. She has come to believe that God brought them together for good, more than thirty years after bringing them together for the first time as teenagers. She never lost faith or hope in faith, hope and love.
What I have realized over the last several months is that love is everywhere, the extraordinary in the ordinary or even seemingly hopeless. I have had many transcendental moments since last December, where I have been keenly aware of the beauty of the world and my presence in it, and it has stopped me in my tracks. I think it must be what sobriety is like. Many who have struggled with addiction talk about how they see things for the first time with an unprecedented clarity and without the haze of their addiction blinding them to the beauty that surrounds them. Of course, that means being vulnerable and subject to the frailties and pain of the human existence. In this regard, my experiences have drawn me nearer to the lessons of the Gospel, the life of Christ and the Word of God.
It is true that unemployment tries your heart, mind and soul. My hair is a little grayer and the furrow in my brow a little deeper than it was a year ago. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t have challenging days when I am filled with doubt and worry, despite the fact that I am blessed with far, far more than others who are looking for work. I have sat many a day in my church trying to discern a direction, and seeking solace, but also giving thanks for the tremendous gifts I have that, in turn, reinforce my faith and give me hope for the future. So much of this has been fed by the love and kindness of those around me, some of them strangers. It is humbling to be out of work, and yet even more humbling to be loved the way I am loved, and watched over even by those who have no obligation to care. For every dark moment, for every person whom I felt turned away from me, there have been innumerable others bearing witness to the inherent beauty of the world, goodness of people, and presence of God. I think (and pray) a lot about those who do not have what I do, and it has made me want to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and person — to love more fully and expansively, despite the seeming imperfections of the present time.
I have concluded that there is no other way to live. If I never earned another dollar, but loved more fully, I believe I will have lived a good life. Sadly, Hurricane Sandy ravaged and destroyed the spot where my cousin married just a few short weeks after her wedding. The love, however, remains.
Each cycle of the tide is valid;
Each cycle of the wave is valid.
And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket.
They are only there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eventually.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From The Sea.
Copyright 2012 Leslie Rohrbacker