Friday, November 6, 2015

Love Changes All

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom." (Confucius)

As I look out my window this morning, I see that Nature has said "It's time for a change". A thick gray, bone-chilling fog has settled into our neighborhood for the first time, and the bright sunny fall mornings I've been enjoying now seem a distant memory.

Looking out my office window this morning
But even as I blow on my frigid fingers and wiggle my icy toes here inside at my desk, I am glad for the change. I'm ready for the season of soups and sweaters; mittens and mufflers; the light of candles in every room; cheery fireplaces and snuggly flannel sheets. I don't mourn the passing of the bright beauty of fall into the grayness of winter. Change is inevitable. Change is good. Life itself is but a bridge of change: old to new, and back again.

But as I gaze out the window, an interesting question popped into my mind: What is it that causes me to change? What has driven me through the seasons of my life so far?

"Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new...but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery, and its design." (Paracelsus)

I suppose that some changes I've experienced have simply been the product of Time: What was once quick in me, has slowed a little; what was once thin, is a little thicker; what filled my life and days then, is now but a distant memory.

One might also say that it is Experience which has changed me through the lessons that accompanied it; sometimes painful. There have been many crossroads in my life - both professional and personal - where change has been thrust upon me, and I've had little choice but to admit that its time had come. Thankfully though, each time that I accepted the change - suffered the pain of what seemed to be lost - Life always gave me something greater in return: a more fulfilling job; new friends; a more honest understanding of what was truly important to me; and most importantly, Love.

And in writing that last sentence, I realized something. Real, lasting change in my life hasn't been a product of either Time or Experience. What these two things have produced has been mostly circumstantial. They have brought change to my life, but have they been life-changing? The true agent of change for me has been Love: Unconditional Love. And isn't that true for all of us?

"Where there is great Love, there are always miracles." (Willa Cather)

I can see that because I've been loved unconditionally throughout my life - by the Divine, by my parents, by my beautiful wife - my life and my very person has been changed, in ways I could've never engineered for myself.

Unconditional love is the source of all Life's miracles. It inspires courage in those who were once meek. It softens what once was hard. It teaches that if you stumble and fall, you can always get up and try again. It promises that even in a world that may seem dark and cold, you are never alone. And it grants the greatest rewards, ironically, to those who give the most away. I have experienced each of these miracles personally.

For something so powerful, you'd think it would make itself known in our lives through great deeds and memorable words. But I can see its power comes from all the little ways it can find its way into our lives and our hearts. Unconditional love can be found in:
  • The sparkle of an eye or the gift of a special smile
  • The warmth of two hands joined, whether in gratitude or affection
  • Simple words like "Please drive carefully" or, "Do you need a coat?" or "Welcome home".
  • Someone, who in a painful moment, stands with you and quietly expresses "I'm here for you", or "I forgive you".
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." (Thomas Merton)

And, that I think, is the real miracle of unconditional love. 

It does not ask for anything in exchange for it to be received. It does not require a change. It sees all. It accepts all. It loves all. And because of that, unconditional Love changes both the giver and the receiver. What else in life has such power? Nothing that I know.

So, as the morning's mists slowly lift and slip away, I say a silent prayer of gratitude for being loved, and for being given the opportunities to express love.  Just as the blue skies and warm sun were always there behind the fog, so is Love always present in my life.

The Season for Love is always now. That's a Pearl worth remembering.