Cornelia van Voorst
August 21, 2022
Convergence Creative Prayer- August 21, 2022- Cornelia van Voorst
In our recent years of pandemic, paper hearts have graced our windows, and memes on social media call upon us to love one another, take care of one another. In poetry, song, art and story, the power of love is invoked regularly. Yet when we are aware and overwhelmed by trouble in our world and in our own lives, talk of “love is the answer” can sound unrealistic. Perhaps we do not know exactly what love is, let alone how to recognize it. Often, we hear the word used in terms of romantic perfection or affection, but that is not always the sort of love that provides comfort or courage in the midst of difficulty. Yet still, we talk about love being the highest calling.
Gandhi (and I paraphrase) says that love must be the most powerful force in the world- otherwise how is it humans survive considering all the awful things we do to one another? He points out that our news cycle focuses on what goes wrong in the world and neglects events such as brothers reconciling, the look of kindness between strangers, the consideration given to an elder on the bus, the behind-the-scenes choices of leaders that result in social change. In our every day, love -even though we may not notice-is always present, always in action.
How can we learn to recognize love in our every day?
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF:
Sometimes just the word ‘love’ doesn’t give us enough information to recognize its presence, but when we think of someone who was patient with us, or kind to us kind that is how love actually showed up.
1) WHAT IS LOVE?
Paul talks a lot about love; we are especially familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4- 8. (“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”) Many weddings feature this reading.
Yet in this passage Paul is not talking about romantic perfection. Love described as patient, long suffering, self-controlled, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, is not needed for perfect people-or a perfect world! Love is described by qualities essential for our imperfect, awkward, frustrating interactions with each other and this world. Below are some words he uses to describe love in his letters. As they are read aloud listen for whatever words (or word) resonates for you and write them down:
Patient, kind, humble, honors others, unselfish, not easily angered, forgives, rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, gentle, never fails, unfailing, peaceful, justice, comfort, tenderness, compassion, joy.
Maybe there is another word that describes love that you could add to the list.
Think back over your week and make a note when one or more of these qualities was present through you or someone else. It might have been a moment of patience with the woman who was taking a long time to find her money at the checkout. It might be noticing a child and feeling joy. It might be speaking gently to someone even though you were irritated. It might be refusing to listen to mean gossip and sticking to the truth you know about a person; it might be choosing hope over despair when watching the evening news.
3) Take a word from the list above that has resonance for you and elaborate it visually. Some of us might remember how in Middle School or High School we decorated headings; book covers or our names; do the same with your word. By introducing a visual response by hand, we are allowing our senses and imagination to engage in a holistic way. Moving beyond text, we are giving our creative child- like nature a chance to respond to scripture. Be present with the elaborated word or image or share it with someone and describe what your word means to you.
Eventually as we become familiar with the qualities of love and pay attention to the moments they are present, we will start to notice that love is much more integrated within our lives than our fears might suggest.
These are readings from which descriptive words of love were sourced:
1 Corinthians 13: 4- 8
As this Creative Prayer session was being prepared, the words of another scripture began to come to mind- another passage of Paul’s, one that is not known as a teaching about love, but of spiritual warfare- of remaining righteous and strong in a troubled and dangerous times.
Ephesians 6: 13-17
Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
In this passage are some of the same words with which Paul describes love. In a time in which followers of Christ were threatened with real swords, and real soldiers, Paul subverts the image of a warrior with the words, “peace, salvation, truth, faith, righteousness, and Spirit”. He is telling us that love is powerful enough to be our armor, to be our protection and source of action in a threatening time.
“Love always trusts, always protects, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:7)
As if to affirm this realization, the day after our meeting I read this text by Paul and realized it combined both the analogy of armor and the call to love: 1 Thessalonians 5:3
….. putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Let us hear this echo of the call to love in 1 Corinthians 3: 8
In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Cornelia van Voorst leads Creative Prayer online every third Sunday for Convergence. Cornelia is a contemporary artist with a studio practice in Victoria, BC, Canada. Her theopoetic work is expressed through visual art, curating, writing and speaking. Learn more about Cornelia and our 5:00 PM Sunday sessions here…
You can also learn more about Cornelia and her art through her website vanvoorstart.com and find her on Instagram @vanvoorst_cornelia or Facebook: Cornelia van Voorst