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Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado; he blogs and he’s the author of a book called Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes
. Jeff’s post today reflects the kind of love that Lent leads us into.

Question for the day: How does Lenten love manifest itself in our relationships? Or,  what does Lent teach us about love and relationships? Now to Jeff Cook’s post.

AshWed.jpgI have long believed that without pain, love is impossible, because real love requires sacrifice. My parents have a real and gracious affection for my two boys. They “love” their grandkids. But it’s really just a happy feeling. They see them on holidays playing, they have their pictures on their computer, they talk to them on the phone–but they do not love them, in the richest, most meaningful sense of the word.

      They have never cleaned up their puke. They have never woke up at 1 A.M. and then 3 A.M. and then 3:30 and then 4 in the morning to comfort a hacking cough. They have not put down addictions to bookstores, and movies, and video games, and long runs, so they can be an attentive father. They have not been there in the really difficult, painful times. It’s no knock on them. It’s just how it is. 

But love is not a matter of distant affections, no matter how real. Love is seen principally in sacrifice. My love for my boys is shown in my chronic back pain, from lifting them up over and over again. It is shown in my recent hearing loss because I choose to hold them after they’ve been hurt, as they scream on and on. It is shown in my lack of rest. It is shown in the pleasures I put aside. Love for my boys is shown in the fact that they can hit me, and yell at me, and even say desperately mean things to me, and still in the next hour I will pick them up after they have hurt themselves, or rub their small arms and wrap them in my shirt when their skin is cold, or scrub out another pair of pants they have defiled because they choose not to go to the toilet. It is in sacrifice that real love is seen and experienced.  And without real trials such love simply does not exist.            

What we surrender in a world without pain is love–love of our friends, love of our spouses, love of our children, but even more so a real display of the love of God. For, of course, in a world without suffering there are no crosses. We live in a world in which we know that hanging to death from a pair of boards is horrific. And thus, when God says, “I love you,” it actually means something.

It is because of suffering, not in spite of it, that I am drawn to the Jesus-story. Better still, it is why I am drawn to Jesus.

Jesus is not a God like Zeus watching from some far off mountain as the world destroys itself. Jesus is not a God setting the whole cosmos in motion and letting it spin as it may. Jesus is a God who enters the pain, the misery, and the horror of it all–and he makes them beautiful. The cross was the only throne Jesus ever wanted to sit on, and he took that seat for those like me. This is love. On the cross we encounter love in its most naked, full-throated and terrifyingly impertinent.

And it seems to me that such love is of supreme worth.

The love of God for us, the love that entered into our story, is the love that leads us to the confession that follows:

AshWed.jpgMost holy and merciful Father:

We confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints

in heaven and on earth,

that we have sinned by our own fault

in thought, word, and deed;

by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Celebrant continues

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our
neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the
mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of
our lives,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and
work,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need
and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice
and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come
after us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;

Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,

That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,

Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

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