I love you. Regardless of your viewpoints, actions, successes, failures, rants, and sexuality. I love you in spite of anything and everything you could do to me. I’d love you just as much if you put me in prison as if you somehow elected me president. I’ll love you if you reciprocate and I’ll love you if you persecute. I love who you are, your soul and your body. I don’t have to know you personally to know that you’re worthy of my life, death, and every other imaginable sacrifice in between. I love that you dream, desire, fight, and long for so much more than you can express. In my truest moments, I fervently agree with Dostoevsky’s idiot, Prince Myshkin, that “I don’t understand how one can…speak with a man and not be happy in loving him”. I love you. At least, that is my deepest intent.
However, I know you doubt my love, and I understand why. I’ve certainly done a miserable job of explaining myself to you articulately, but the bigger issue is that I’ve so thoroughly and drastically failed to live it out that you’ve been forced to file me away in the “hypocrite” or “liar” drawer, keeping stuffy company with infomercial hosts and politicians. You’ve already heard me say “I love you” ad nauseum, but you’ve been waiting for me to behave in a manner befitting the idea. The words leave my mouth compelled by Truth, I promise, but it isn’t long before they’re tackled by politics or my propensity to be antagonistic when I’m hungry.
So, I end up being viewed as hypocritical. The problem is, the appearance of hypocrisy doesn’t come from believing in absolute truth, because we all live, move, and exist in absolute Truth; we’re just excellent avoiders of that reality. No, the hypocrisy results when I say I believe in unconditional love, and then hide out on my side of the mountain. That’s wrong of me. You don’t hide behind truth like it’s a wall, you run to the world with it like it’s a blood transfusion.
See, I’m not sorry for believing that truth can be known, or even that foolish, clueless Nic might have actually stumbled upon the fullness of it. (For more on stumbling, read Orthodoxy) Honestly, I’m sick to death of the mentality that says we can’t hash through disagreements and come to a definitive conclusion. I don’t for an instant think it’s profitable for anyone if we avoid confrontation over issues of faith and morals. I think it is a great injustice to deflect away from difficult ethical conversations. I believe in showing the utmost of compassion, but also that some things and acts are evil, and, paraphrasing Chesterton, the two must never mix. I think avoidance merely promotes the ego and makes us unable to sift through the weeds to find the blossom. I think agreeing to disagree leaves the whole world stagnant.
I also believe that so much of the turmoil is a result of us all refusing to be humble. We don’t want to submit to any but a self-created authority. We want to throw around phrases like “we’re all God’s children”, but then get indignant when He acts like a good Father. We’re supposed to have faith like a child, not like a spoiled brat. Brats don’t have faith, and they don’t trust a good parent.
A good parent says an energetic “yes” whenever and wherever possible, and an unwavering, unflinching “no” every time the need arises. A good parent will never condone wrong, but will also never allow wrongdoing to impact or alter their affirmation of the child’s dignity. A good parent will not condemn what is right about their child’s existence, nor will they condone what is wrong about their behavior. A good parent can chastise, punish and correct with loving strength and firm compassion, and do so without causing the child to doubt their love. A good parent can do all this even when their child hurls accusations, throws tantrums, screams insults, and vows from behind slammed doors that the relationship is over. When the brilliant, unerring child demands his allowance and makes a complete mess of his life, the parent never congratulates or applauds the mistake, but also waits with fat calves and baited breath at the property line, boundless mercy in hand.
And I believe that God is a perfect Father and that the Church is a perfect Mother…
However, even though these may be controversial opinions to you, I know they are not the real reason that you question the veracity of my love. The real doubt-causing agent is found in the only true and unavoidable vehicle that can bring unconditional love down into the midst of sin: complete gift of self. The math in the equation of using “the ‘L’ word” necessitates more than just talk or sentiment on my part; the missing variable, the convincing component, is sacrifice . If I say I love you, then I have to give myself to you. If I say I love you, I have to be willing to die for you. If I say I love you, then I have to let go of everything I naturally cling to and offer it up for you, embracing that martyrdom. That is why I usually stop short. That is also why you don’t believe me, not because I hold a belief that is contrary to yours.
Joseph Ratzinger said “sacrifice is humanity becoming love with Christ”. I can endlessly profess my deep love, but until I’ve truly given of myself to you, sacrificially and without ulterior motive, those words don’t persuade. They may be loud and clear, but it’s only because they’re amplified by bouncing around in their own hollowness. If I don’t love until it hurts me, until it requires something (everything) of me, then even the points that I’m right about become just that, hits in a debate; but when I feed, nurture, embrace, and suffer with you, knowing you are unsure of God’s love, the only real love, then bullet points, which you can take or leave on an outline, become united with the great force of all creation, the love of Christ, which you actually can’t ignore. When that happens, the facets of an argument don’t actually disappear, they simply become irrelevant in the light of selfless gift. You can disregard a Christian, but you can’t disregard the love of Christ.
Which is what my negligence has deprived you of.
However, I’m changing my game. I’m not going to start benignly nodding at everything you do, pretending that all is quiet on the human front, because even logic tells us that that’s not love. (I’d ask that you do the same for me, by the way). I am, however, going to attempt to start putting your dignity and weaknesses ahead of mine. If real love is to “will the good of the other”, then I’m going to start willing your good, instead of merely hoping that your ultimate good happens by some quaint coincidence. I’m going to fight for your good over mine. Instead of saying “come here”, I’ll start saying “come with me”. As much as possible, I’m going to bleed in your place, pay your debts, bear your burdens, feed your family, bind your wounds, and clothe your nakedness.
At the end of that day, regardless of theological nuances, politics, or legislation, you may still think me an idiot, but you will know me by my love, and I’ll have finally spoken truthfully. Who knows, you might even love me, too.