Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Love Notices Wet Hair: On the Ministry of Noticing

What is sharp-eyed love?

When I was studying Attic Greek, I was transfixed upon the verb λανθάνω – I am hidden, escape notice. A word, a verb, that named my busy pain.

Ultimately it's a metaphysically impossible activity (Q&A11 of the First Catechism . . . He always sees me). Yet a falsely imagined but felt invisibility has so much been a part of my days and years.

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Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
// Simone Weil

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Sister Girl,

This is an article I've returned to again and again over the years. It was written by a full-time college ministry worker.

Its contents are why I got weepy during our brunch with Ava, as she shared about the simultaneous love & loss that can overwhelm her when she thinks of her children while recalling her own mother. The same paradoxical lack & abundance burn me when I get to be part of a church that cares and provides for children, part of ministries for students, and wonder why I wasn't worth protecting and advocating for. How did I escape their notice?

In the end, Ava said, it is God who loves and raises and saves us, through poverty & plenty alike. In the end, it's so that I get to know and enjoy Him.

You strike a tender nerve there when you behave like you're invisible.

The necessity of the ministry of noticing, of seeing. And the pain of being invisible and unknown. After all, isn't this such a part of what Jesus did in so many of his gentle encounters with broken women? He spotted and saw them through and through and did not look away, turned all eyes on her, away from the person of power, onto the marginalized. I think, He knew what they needed. 

Q11: Can you see God?
A11: No, I cannot see God, but he always sees me.

Even when I fail to see/recognize Him, fail to see myself rightly. Even when nobody else noticed I was in need. He saw, knew. So we lack nothing. We are no longer orphans (nor were we ever). Thank you for reminding me. Have a great week!


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Who am i that You are mindful of me?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Esther
Date: Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 9:18 PM
To: boo friend

boo love,

I too was a lurker in churches once. I always attended, on the fringes. And would invariably end up feeling overlooked or unsafe. And I would leave in search of a city of refuge. I went to several churches over the years waiting for welcome from its people. Ended up feeling safe only if anonymous.

Liberation came with feeling seen/known by God. This quality was what I came to experience as Papa God's love. 1 Cor 13 stunned me, I couldn't believe the words staring at me from the Bible's pages... "For now we see dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." What? I was suddenly always Seen, and always Safe...

March 2011 Epiphany

Love Notices Wet Hair

Jesus said the most fundamental responsibility we have is to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In light of this he was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” which is another way to ask, “Whom am I obligated to love?”
At Penn State, we have been asking questions about obligation all week. Who is legally obligated to report sexual abuse of a child, and to whom must they report it? Who is morally obligated to report sexual abuse of a child, and to whom must they report it? Is there a difference between moral obligation and legal obligation?
Jesus responded to the heart of that question in his famous story about the Good Samaritan. Surprisingly though, he didn't actually answer that question. He answered a more important one.
First, though, consider two of the victims described in the grand jury's findingsin the case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to the report a graduate assistant saw a 10-year-old boy (victim two) pressed against a shower wall being raped. The assistant then left, eventually called his boss, and reported what he had seen, just as he was legally obligated to do.
In contrast, when victim six returned home from a visit with Sandusky, his mom noticed he had wet hair. On the basis of that small detail alone she was concerned and learned that they had showered together. Immediately this mom called the police, cooperated in a wiretap, confronted Sandusky to his face, interrogated him about the details of showering with her son, grilled him about the effect he had on her son, and rebuked him, telling him never to shower with another boy again.
What's the difference between these cases?
The difference is the mom loved her son. She loved her little boy and was moved to outrage by the simple fact of his wet hair. She moved aggressively. She wasn't fulfilling a legal obligation, and she wasn't fulfilling a moral obligation. Obligation wasn't the issue.
Love is the issue. The shame engulfing Penn State is about a deficiency of love. The chief responsibility of our life is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors as much as and in the same manner that we love ourselves. “Who is my neighbor?” is the wrong question. According to Jesus, the right question is, “Am I a neighbor?” It's not, “Who must I love?” It's, “Am I one who loves?”

Ultimate Love

Again, the chief responsibility of our lives is to love God and others as we love ourselves. But we don't. If we're honest, it's not even close. We don't love anyone with the vigor and thoroughness that we love ourselves. Jesus Christ is the only one to walk the earth who fulfilled that command. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and he is the one who loves radically. He said, “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” And then he did just that. He loved radically; gave himself away—-not just figuratively but literally. He laid down his life as a sacrifice on the cross to protect us from the punishment our sins deserve. He loves you as much as he loves himself.
To the extent that fact penetrates your heart, it will transform you and make you love better. It will give you not just the affection of love, but the courage of love. A love that moves to protect. That moves into danger. A love that doesn't measure obligation but suffers so the beloved won't. The kind of love that would notice wet hair and respond immediately.
In order to love like that we need to first mourn over this evil. There has been an urgency for us at Penn State to get past or even deflect this shame. Don't do that. Let the shame into your heart. Grieve. Mourn. If we will accept the glory of Penn State, we must also accept the shame, and this is a shameful moment.
Let shame produce softness and repentance in your heart. Perhaps God will give you the grace to see your own failure to love in others' failure to love. As you mourn and confess that failure to him, you can experience his love, become one who notices the wet hair all around you, and move to love others.

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