I love everyone
I love everyone.
Riley rainbow-writes the words on her hand in letters that look faded against her skin, some big, some small, some crooked where the pens slip into the valleys between her fingers. It’s a God thing to write love into surfaces, into souls, into the tissue of our hands, but for her the art expresses who she is, not something she’s trying to remember to be. I stumble into the kitchen at daybreak, half-blind, and this is how I find her, pressing one hand flat against the counter top, spreading the fingers wide. Her blonde hair shines, dangling like gold-spun ribbons over her work. She pauses just to tuck the errant strands behind her ears.
She is, by nature, impartially loving. And by everyone, she means everyone, even the people she doesn’t know yet. And she says it that way–I don’t know them yet–as though she’s clear on the fact that maybe someday she will, and certainly she wants to. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I already know enough people. But that’s not God speaking through me. The truth is that everyone is loved by God and therefore worth our attention, our time, our knowing. The truth is, that should change how I see everyone.
Intently, she colors in her self-styled tattoo, this expression of her soul robed in God-promise, the covenant reminder God chose for love that preserves life. I can see that she’s eating breakfast too, chewing so slowly no one would know except for the breakfast sandwich on the plate, the rough outline of a bite. It will take her an hour to eat the one sandwich, if she can finish it at all. As the school year winds to a close, her anxiety coils, an ugly enemy she fights to overcome.
I love everyone.
She’ll focus now, on that. She’s as innocent as a dove, but not as shrewd as a snake. So the shrewd is something I am teaching her, though of all teachings, I despise that one most. Until the snake enticed us to think that knowing evil was better than never knowing it at all, we had no need for shrewd. But in this world, people who love everyone suffer more than anyone. That is, after all, the way of the cross. I’m afraid for her because she’s that way. And yet, God wants me to be more like my daughter—not so shrewd as to have lost my innocence. He wants me to focus intensely on loving others, even when I’m sick-to-my-stomach afraid.
“Trouble eating today?” I ask, setting the bacon pan on the burner, twisting the knob in my fingers.
“Mmmhmm,” she says, picking up her purple pen to smooth out the lines on the “l.” She looks up at me, careful to acknowledge my question. “Yea, I guess so,” she says quietly, but her eyes say, Please, don’t focus there. And that’s when I realize that for her, this is more than just an art project.
I’ve seen this before, the way the kids write memos on their own skin, but usually it’s something like science test or a phone number or some other scattered detail. This is different. In the face of her fear, she chooses to create art about something real, something that matters, right on her own skin. She chooses to redirect her own attention. Chuckle if you want to, but for her, this is no joke. She’s afraid to eat, afraid of the noise, afraid of the day, but she chooses to focus on loving others—on loving everyone. She chooses to focus on beauty that lasts. Love never fails.
I love everyone.
She looks away from my scrutiny and back to her markers, scanning the rainbow line for options. Orange. A bright ‘o’, stretching wide like the reach of her arms, the eternal circle of an embrace. She is singularly focused, working her own attention away from fear. She is intentional about the choice to look out into the lives of others.
It’s a simple gesture, but one that cuts right through my morning stumble. I gather up the intensity of her effort, her vibrant creativity, her strategy, and count it the first gift of the day.
This activity is not just the reflection of a state of being but an intentional, active choice to reach beyond, and watching her, I understand. The choice must be felt skin-deep because that’s where her anxiety has taken up it’s position for attack, simmering right in those fair trembling hands, right below the surface of her skin.
She teaches me, simply, courageously, how to take captive my thoughts and make them obedient.