Love in search of love

Fourth graders sat in a circle surrounding a blue rag rug, the light from a few fragile votive candles flickering upward on their downturned faces as they studied the Bibles before them. For the fourth week they were reading the texts of creation from Genesis, savoring each verse, exploring the mysteries they had not realized before were embedded within the Word of these ancient texts.

They chuckled at the LORD’s creation of all creatures in a clumsy attempt to find a partner for Adam and agreed with fourth grade forthrightness with the boy who laughingly announced he would rather have a good puppy for his buddy than any girl! They sat in silence before the great first love song of man to woman, “Is this not flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, and sighed in unison when one girl – the child of divorced parents – whispered under her breath, “I wish it was still like that.” Then, on cue, they tittered as one being upon encountering the final verses of Chapter 2, “. . . And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (KJV)

Dissolving into the shared mirth of the almost-adolescent faced with issues of nudity, they almost missed the quiet comment of one child in their midst.

“I wish my heart could still be naked.”

Those children closest to her paused, checked in their mirth.

“I do too,” said one.

Without a word from me, the children began to discuss those things which they wished they didn’t fear they had to keep hidden in their hearts: moments of darkness, of unkind words, of jealous thoughts.

Into this Spirit-filled conversation, rose the head of the serpent, wily and crafty.

“But were Adam and Eve cavemen?” asked a boy.

A fig leaf settled over the discussion, sealing away the open conversation –conversion — of their hearts before God.

In a moment the room was divided, anger and bewilderment simmering under the surface of the community and occasionally breaking forth in a statement of judgment, one child against another. Evolution or creationism? Was the truth these scriptures intended to convey that of how humans were created, or was it “What is the intended relationship between humans and between humans and their creator?” Was the text historical in nature or metaphorical?

In the intense struggle to let the children be taught by the Spirit and not to interpose my own thoughts, I was saved, again, by one of the children.

“Perhaps it’s the story of that seed. [1] You know, Miss Kay, the story of the seed you told us when we were in the Little School atrium. Perhaps God made us, but God made us with the seed of heaven inside of us which is growing and changing us. Perhaps this story says God made us, but that it isn’t important just HOW we were made. Perhaps it’s more important what the story says we are being made INTO.”

Her classmates questioned this. How could we be transformed, and by what means could such an alteration be accomplished? Although we could see she had some kind of vision of humankind’s metamorphosis, we could all also see that she didn’t, at age ten, have the words to express it. Finally, in frustration, she blurted out only one word: “Love.”

I reminded them then of what they had identified the week before as God’s motivation in the creation. The prior week they had said that God had had so much love, God had wanted to share it, that creation was the first act of love. They remembered then that when we had wondered “Why does God say ‘Let the earth . . .’, why doesn’t God just say “Plants!’ like God earlier said ‘Light!”?, that this same young girl had jumped up and said, “It’s covenant! God invites the earth. The earth builds signs — trees and things that point to the sky — to mark the covenant like the stacks of stone that Jacob used. The earth wants to love God back. Oh, I know! The light (Genesis 1: 3) was the light of God’s love, and the earth loves back!”

Remembering this discussion together, they, in immediate unison, agreed that our transformation was into beings that so loved each other and God that no heart had a need to be hidden, that all hearts could be naked before God and one another. The creation was being made new, changing into a cosmos in which all creatures became aligned in perfect, deep harmony with one another and with God. The children had cast the texts of creation into a story of “Love in search of love”, a story know to us in the Bible as covenant.[2]

As the atrium time ended, I walked the fourth grade class to lunch, and I wondered. Perhaps covenant is not established by a smoking firepot who moves through the midst of Abraham’s sacrificial offerings (Genesis 15:17) or by an agreement made amongst thundering clouds atop a desert mountain (Exodus 20). Perhaps covenant is a nuptial hymn, a celebration of an act of becoming one flesh, an incarnation transforming each of us who, being implanted with the Word and Spirit of God, is undergoing a metamorphosis, preparing to bring forth a hitherto unknown divinity.

In that revelation the movement within the gospel of John — from the parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10) to the parable of the True Vine (John 15) — unfolded as the movement from our opening experience of love — the initial thrill of joy felt when our beloved speaks our name aloud for the first time in the tender moments of our new relationship — to the more intense, deeper joy of the nuptial hymn sung by the beloved the first night of shared life:

This at last is flesh of my flesh

and bone of my bone,

this one shall be called part of me

for from me/for me she was made.

Is this not the oldest, the first love song of creation? Sung at the beginning of time by the Creator as an invitation to the creation, it calls out the joy our Creator knew and which fills our own being when finally we fall like found sheep into the Shepherd’s arms to abide as one with God. No longer just sheep called by and held in the love of the Shepherd, we are transformed by God’s nuptial hymn into becoming one with God’s own self, branches of the one vine: “and they shall become as one flesh” and “I am the vine, you are my branches” melding into one concept.

The Shepherd who calls our name magnifies God’s love song begun for us at the beginning of creation. We are called into a relationship of complete communion, into a complete interchange of devotion, by a cosmic hymn of Love, in which we are melded into one flesh with the one who calls us to abide in him, for he, already having sown within us the Word of his kingdom, abides in us already.

And how does this calling first begin for us? How do we first hear this nuptial hymn of God? It begins as it began eight years or more ago for then five year old Molly, who bent her ear to the sheepfold in the Little School atrium, then looked up at me, shocked and joyful to announce, “Miss Kay, Miss Kay! I hear it! The shepherd is singing a song. It goes, ‘Molly, Molly . . .’ But I don’t know how it ends yet.”

Bend back, Molly.

Listen!


[1] “Another parable he set before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in this field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof .” Matthew 33: 31-32.

[2] Cavalletti, Sofia and Coulter, Patricia. Ways to Nurture the Relationship with God.Chicago,IL: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Publications, 2010. iv. Coulter sets forth the idea of covenant as the deep desire of God to love creation and of our deep longing to respond in love in return.

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4 thoughts on “Love in search of love

  1. Thank you, Kay, for your wisdom and openness to God’s Spirit and to the child. This is beautiful! The Lord is Risen and lives so fully in moments like this! I love you dear friend and I love this shared work!

    • Micki, thank you for your encouragement. I’m still trying to figure out this whole blogging thing, and I need all the morale boosts I can get! Now to figure out how to load photos and make these posts more intriguing to look at . . . .

      Kay

  2. Kay,
    This was a beautiful way to start the morning. It is the first email that I received since I “discovered” your blog and signed up. I too have a prism which, at certain times of year, sends rainbows dancing across my desk. I too have followed a long and winding road to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. You will be a companion as I learn to listen to the children.
    Mary Alice

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