Sunday our beloved Zoe, our four-pawed only child passed away. As my heart breaks right now at the passing of a family member, I find myself lost in feelings and contemplation. I contemplate love, and suffering.
I think about the last hours with my loved one. She has so much pain and was clearly suffering. I spooned her as she leaned into me and I held her tight while her body gave up its strength.
Prior to the moment of death, I experienced love and she experienced suffering. Now, as I experience suffering I hope she is experiencing love. The part of me that has strong faith and belief hopes so.
So in my suffering, I think about what I believe about love, what I hope about love. I know that I am suffering now because I loved her. And since I loved her deeply and unconditionally, the suffering is strong and tears me apart. I think we can have suffering without love, but is there love without suffering?
And if not, what does that mean when we think about God being love? The universal message of the New Testament is that God is love. Not the God is loving, but the God is love personified. Anytime love is expressed, God is present.
I think about 1 Corinthians 13:13. And now consider Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.
The bible says that love is greater than faith. In more than one place it alludes to the idea that faith without love is nothing and pointless. And that we will be judged by how much we love, not by our faith. While faith is credited to a person as righteousness, all our righteousness are as filthy rags, which is why we need Jesus. So faith is credited to us as righteousness but our love is credited to us as the Imago Dei. Our love is the image of God in us. We will be judged by how much we look like God, by our love.
Love is not pragmatic. Love is not selfish. Love experiences suffering. This makes me think about the suffering God experiences and why he chooses to judge us based on our love. I believe that the image of God is in every person, and I believe He experiences each person’s suffering and pain, just like He is experiencing my pain right now.
I believe God experiences the pain of the refugee, who left almost certain death in their own country only to find themselves in the sex slave trade, fulfilling the lust in person and online of those who refuse to let them enter their country.
I believe God experiences the pain and suffering of every person who is socially shamed and rejected for something beyond their control. I believe God experiences the pain of those who has lost hope and cut themselves just to feel something again. I believe He feels the deep loneliness of so many, many people. I believe He feels this, not because He is God and magic or something. I believe He feels this because He is love, and love feels pain.
So why does a loving God allow suffering in the world? At this moment, it seems like a false choice. I love my dog deeply, and therefore I felt her suffering and am experiencing my own. Love is connection, and in a dying world, it is both beautiful and excruciating.
I’ve long wanted to be known as someone who loves, to be a reminder of God/love to those around me.
God is as much in my love that is joyous as He is my love that is painful. In order to embrace the Imago Dei in me, I have to embrace both.
We’ll see how that goes.