To be rendered silent by love is an amazing possibility. So often we hear the words “God loves you” or “God loves you and so do I.” This concept of love becomes tamed by overuse. It becomes a greeting or well wish more than a raw encounter of the heart.
Don’t get me wrong: expressing love to one another is important and often we don’t do it enough. My own father would likely be stunned to know that I saved all the little gift cards on which he scrawled the words “Love, Dad.” Those words are important to me, something I cherish.
Still, this idea of being silenced by God’s love speaks of being startled by the vibrancy of it, by the unbridled advent of it in unexpected places.
Last week, as we were setting up for Sunday worship, a regular member of the congregation, who suffers from mental illness, approached me. He made even less sense than usual, as he uttered a steady stream of inarticulate words. All I could say was “I don’t quite understand what you are saying, but I am glad you are here.”
Honestly, I was feeling a bit impatient, and not paying close attention to him as he hovered, and I continued my business. Half-listening at best, I placed communion cups in the tray. Suddenly I found myself startled, wondering if I really heard what I thought I heard: The words I love you emerged clear and strong from his jumble of speech.
I stopped what I was doing and looked at him. Had I heard correctly? Then he said this: “Do you love us?” My heart wrenched and I looked him dead in the eye. “Yes. Yes, I do. Very much.”
A gentle smile flickered across his face, and he moved on.