She’s awake before we walk in the room this time, not wrapped in the usual cocoon of blankets, that defensive arm peaked over her eyes, those lips tight-sealed against words. Instead, this morning she stands dressed, a question hanging in her eyes even though she asked us to wake her up, as though of course she would be ready and waiting. Today a loved one awaits and not the bustling hallways at school, and that changes everything. She anticipates joy, adventure, love, with one who amuses and suffuses, instead of the dull boredom expected of obligation. The marked change in her demeanor moves me to wonder: How many moments do I greet with similar enthusiasm? What—who–do I love so well? Something echoes in my mind, a haunting passage of scripture–because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
I’ve been reading this morning about a woman with a shredded heart, a woman mourning the missing body of a lost love. She weeps while the garden around her wakes in new light. I can almost hear the slight rustle of leaves turning to catch her tears, can almost see the gardener, blurred by that watery veil.
“Why are you crying?” He asks her gently. “Who are you looking for?”
Words tumble from her mouth before she can catch them, and with them, the assumptions of grief. “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you put him, and I will get him.”
She’s a resourceful woman, the kind to stare defiantly at seemingly impossible odds, the kind who loves hotly before figuring out precisely how to do so. She makes me laugh out loud, a sound too bright for this early morning. The fact that the body will be heavy, even cumbersome, hardly matters and certainly can’t compete with this woman’s determination. She needs to be with the body; she needs to glare at death. She got up early to make the journey.
Losing sleep feels like such a simple concession for love, which over time has proven–as the Word attests—to be the single most powerful and enduring gift. If death can’t hold it, how could the bed, even on a cold day when sleepy skin prickles with exposure? I see the woman in the garden now as I look into my daughter’s twinkling eyes, as I notice anticipation blooming on her cheeks even before breakfast. Querying about details, Kevin and I quickly discover how inconsequential things like duration, location, and even sequence feel to our daughter when compared with the boiling desire to spend time with someone she loves. She shrugs. Can we just go? I wonder: if I could fall through the pages of time and stop dead still in front of the woman and interrupt her march to that garden, if I could ask her in advance about the details, would she say the same? Can we just go? Indeed, I think maybe her gaze would look fiery too.
It’s true that like any fire, love has to be kindled and nurtured to stay ablaze. Over time, an untended love will grow cold, dwindling down to ash. So, we make excuses for our lack of passion, blaming years or history, citing details that never matter while the flames still leap. We don’t like to take responsibility for our neglect. But I’ve noticed something: my daughter feeds this love of hers with time, priority, intention, purpose. She tends it with an enviable single-minded focus. She teaches me something fresh about my own loves.
Calling out our lukewarm discipleship, Jesus once said,
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other (Revelation 3:15)!”
So He bids us choose: either the passion that defiantly overwhelms all else and the single-minded tending of those flames OR our submission to the effects of time, to the deadly creep of death and the frozen paralysis of wickedness. In the garden, He speaks her name, my name, yours. She turns, quivering, suddenly knowing him–not a gardener now, but her Lord–both present and alive (John 20:11-18). But what of you and me? When Love speaks, will we still recognize his voice? Will we still rise early just to meet him?