For his 70th birthday my husband Ralph wanted to have a party to celebrate all the people who have contributed to his life. He invited over 150 people from near and far—family, people in our Quaker meeting, his friends from childhood and now, professional colleagues and other people with whom he worked, neighbors, and more. Because he wanted them to have a good time, he arranged for food and entertainment, contacting a caterer and persuading some of his talented friends and family to present a few minutes of their music or poetry.
He didn’t want the party to be about him or to be himself the focus of attention—even having me be the emcee introducing the entertainers. He wanted to get to visit with as many people as he could and to have them mingle, relax, and have fun.
What happened is that people visited with friends, got to see people they hadn’t seen in a long time, met strangers and found amazing connections, laughed, told stories, and enjoyed themselves in a very electric, heart-joining way. Ralph’s dream came true—although he would like to have invited even more people he cares about. That people chose to come and be a part of the gathering was a tremendous gift to him. I call this experience one of self-giving love. The mark of it was the kind of life and joy that permeated the event.
This is the Christian season of Lent in which we are invited to reflect on our lives to see what gets in the way of our freedom and ability to receive God’s love and to love as Christ has loved us. Ralph and I are both very ordinary human beings with all the usual flaws, issues, and wounds, which weren’t absent in the planning or the party itself. But how delightful to be a part of something that had the fragrance of something divine.
What is the difference, as you have experienced it in your life, between self-giving love and letting oneself be run over?
How have you experienced love that surpasses all understanding? What barriers might you erect to that experience and how might you be more open to it?
Lord, make me a channel of your love.
For further reflection:
“…as thou takest up the cross to thyself, and sufferest that to overspread and become a yoke over thee, thou shalt become renewed, and enjoy life, and the everlasting inheritance in that” (Isaac Penington).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (See John 3: 14-17).