My dad used to read Harry Potter to me before going to bed when I was little. I can’t see him reading to me; I can’t feel the warmth of his body as he laid close to me; I can’t hear him tell of the heroics of Harry, Ron and Hermione or try and recite the names of the spells. But I know he did, and I have an unspoken affinity for Harry Potter because of it. The movies will forever be in my all-time favorites. I am struck by the story differently, though, now that he is gone. The death of Lily and the reason Harry survives Voldemort’s curse carry much greater weight. Dumbledore tells Harry many times that love is the most powerful magic in the world, it leaves its mark and is a source of protection for us always.
Little did I know my dad was speaking that same love over me those nights. Whispering the most powerful magic with every word to protect me. To blanket me with the love my soul longs for, to keep it weary to misplaced loves pretending to be the real thing. Though he is gone, I am wrapped still. It is only when I forget his voice I feel exposed.
Father Jim at St. Andrew’s in Fort Worth spoke of the real thing one morning at mass. He said he asks couples getting ready for marriage if they would lay down their lives for one another. Hearing this phrase, my first thought is always strictly literal, being willing to die for this person to live. Then I think of my dad and mom. My dad laid down his suffering to be the father he wanted to be for my brother, Adam, and I. My mom laid down her desire for the healthy husband she married to care for her love whose body was wearing itself out. The tangible, day-to-day laying down of our lives looks like this. Not just romanticized heroics but messy, tired, frustrating and seemingly unfair asks.
We see Jesus lay down His life for all of us for all time in the bloody crucifixion. It is the fulfillment of His miraculous ministry and alone stands as the most intimate outpouring of one’s self, of Love. We not only see Jesus give up Himself in this moment but every previous moment of His life on earth. He gives Himself to the sick, to the poor, to the tax collectors, to the lame, to the adulterous, to the rich, to the fishermen, to the widows, even to the Pharisees, in their daily lives. He desires to be with us in every moment.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
This is the love we all want but at the same time, are fearful of. It asks us to be more than we are, revealing the joy and discomfort found in the tension of being and becoming.
Though 2020 marks another single Valentine’s Day come and gone, I find I am still being asked of this, more deeply and more abundantly so than any man could. My God who I am first in relationship with is teaching me what this Love is like and as gently as He can, bringing it out of me. In this season of singleness, I am not always grateful for it, but I get to get with God and Him alone. I hope, Lord willing, my man is doing the same. As for today, we both get the realest Love and Him alone.