Monday, May 14, 2012

The Courage to Love - Michelle Domingue II, '12

St. John 13:34-35
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.’
2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Back in 2000, Vanessa Williams starred in a film, entitled The Courage to Love. I actually hadn’t watched the movie until last year when conducting research on the woman she portrayed in the film—the Venerable Mother Henriette DeLille. The film provided a general overview of DeLille’s life, making known her piety, devotion to God, but most of all her courage to love all people, regardless of their status—as enslaved or free, of African or European descent, man, woman, American or French.
There’s a lesson to be learned from this saintly woman’s life. Her commitment to the teachings of Christ, virtually summarized in the passage from St. John 13, enabled her to radically love despite the ridicule, the humiliation, and the antagonism she encountered from others. DeLille knew that her salvation was bound up in that of others, so she dedicated her life to loving others, and thereby she shared her experiences with Christ.
            Before committing her life to the service of others, DeLille penned a prayer she created in her journal, in 1836. It read, “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I wish to live and die for God.”
Notice how no prepositional phrasing or no direct objects followed one of those statements: I…love. DeLille understood the universality of that concept—love. She loved God. She loved her family. She loved the enslaved Africans. She loved the schoolchildren she taught. She loved the sick she cared for. She loved. Not for the gratification of anyone or anything, but she loved. That takes courage BEYOND any measure imaginable. She loved wholeheartedly, much like Christ. It takes the same amount of courage and strength and plain ol’ guts to even consider relinquishing a selfish thought for the edification of the community of which you’re all included—no matter what—God’s kingdom.
When we profess ourselves as Christians, we do not merely adopt another label to be tossed in the trunk of our conceived selves. We are orienting ourselves in a worldview in which love rests comfortably at the center, with its axis aimed at Christ. The love I speak of is not solely a gesture performed for the gratification of one’s self, nor is it a superficial declaration of a perceived connection between two or more people. The love I speak of is an ethereal, nearly uncomfortable initial experience. It’s an unspoken connection you have to others, if you so choose to divest yourself of “just dealing” with folks and start honest conversations with each other.
It really bothers me when people talk about tolerating someone else for the sake of “togetherness” or “unity.” I don’t apologize for my candor in saying, “You ca’ keep ya tolerance! I really don’t want it.” The term’s imbued with contradictions and exudes nothing but a spirit incompatible with that of Christ. You can’t tolerate and love. Toleration of others is a tool of COWARDS to evade conversations of understanding seemingly disconnected, distant, and ultimately different experiences of all of God’s children.
We see this attitude of displaying a daring love in 2 Timothy. It says “for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power and love.” Do you even know your own strength? Have you forgotten what you all are made of? The Divine essence constantly burning within in you was a part of God gifted to you in form of spirit. Some of the most powerful things in this world aren’t tangible to the human senses, but they’re felt in the very depths of these fleshy vessels. The power of love and its strange revelations may provoke fear in some of us. And, honestly, that’s okay. Moving blindly in the darkness of superficial love for so long gets you accustomed to that way of life. However, what’s holding you back from stepping into the Light of Love that has the ability to flood every crevice and crack covering our broken, wounded bodies? Do yourself a favor and step out on faith to activate that unchanging, ever-present and omnipresent Love that your spirit, your heart, your Body’s been craving for.
Today, I challenge you to make it your mission to love others, like Mother Henriette DeLille did. Love your God. Love yourselves. Do so with the same fervor as you commit to whatever it is that pleases you. Just love. If you’re afraid, just know that God’s love is power enough to embolden you with the courage to break outside of those confines of comfort and strongholds restricting you from plunging into that swelling sea of immensely powerful, eternal love.
May God bless and keep each and every one of you is my prayer.  Thank you.

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