Aside from playing catch and riding in the car, our dog Gracie enjoys taking walks more than anything. She loves the exercise, the sights, the smells. Especially the smells. But what she likes best of all is that we’re doing it together.
Again and again she smiles up at my wife Joy and me. If we absent-mindedly drop the leash, she’ll take a few steps before noticing. Then she’ll stop in her tracks, look over her shoulder, and give us an expression that says, “Really? Seriously?”
It’s as if she’s embodying my favorite Ram Dass phrase: “We’re all just walking each other home.”
We’re not just solo walkers who happen to be striding along the same road, oblivious to and unconcerned with who might happen to be in the lane next to us. On the contrary, as we travel a shared path we braid our lives into a common fabric. You become part of me. I become part of you.
Joy and I have been together for nearly forty years. Sometimes I look at her and my chest tightens with the realization of how intertwined our lives have become through the adventures we’ve shared, the people we’ve loved, the sorrows we’ve endured, the burdens we’ve carried, and the joys we’ve celebrated.
This is what it means to love. Love can be far more than a strong attraction or a deep affection. To love is to give ourselves so completely to each other as we wander this planet together that, over time, we are woven together. We are still ourselves, and yet we are intimately, undeniably connected.
I feel that tightness in my chest when I acknowledge that we are finite. We have each been allotted a limited time to walk this road. In all likelihood, Joy or I will continue walking after the other’s journey has come to an end.
So, finite beings that we are, because we have given ourselves over to love, we will probably know grief.
No wonder some people resist love’s self-surrender. It leaves such a painful mark. But that is ultimately a fool’s game. It is our very essence as human beings to give and to receive love. We cannot help but yearn to love and to be loved.
When we resist this yearning for very long, we will succeed only in distorting love into a desire to consume or to control. Our hearts will harden with loneliness, bitterness, and cynicism. We will not protect ourselves from love’s sorrows so much as replace those sorrows with self-inflicted spiritual and emotional wounds.
As for me, this finite love is made worthwhile because I believe that it participates in something more. Through the finite love we give and receive in our brief span on this earth, we participate in the infinite, eternal love that brings all things into existence. We participate in the very life of God.
Jesus once said, “I am the Way.” (John 14:6) His way of being—a way of self-giving love—connects us not only to one another but to the very source of all things. When we love, our lives become intertwined with God’s own life. In other words, we get a foretaste of eternal life in the Jesus-shaped love we share right here and right now.
In Luke’s Gospel, the crucified and risen Jesus appears to his friends. They don’t know what to make of it. Is he a ghost? Are they seeing things?
He tells them, “Look at my hands and my feet.” (Luke 24:39) In other words, he’s saying something like this:
Remember the love I modeled all the way to the cross. It can be costly and painful. But that love connects you to God and is the pattern of a new kind of life. A life over which death no longer has any power.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown older, but I’m especially aware these days that Joy and I are walking each other home. And I’m convinced that we are all of us—no exceptions— just walking each other home.
Love is a long, uneven walk. The thought of it sort of breaks my heart. And it gives me a glimpse of life eternal.
Learn more about my latest book Looking for God in Messy Places or grab a copy by clicking here.
Love your reference to love being “the pattern of a new kind of life”. There’s a sting though because getting cut to the pattern is painful (as you’ve alluded to). For me there’s still much ongoing trimming! ~that said, this is a beautiful understanding of the “way” we’re all walking. Thanks!
hmm .. when I read “pattern” my mind jumped to my mum pinning a paper pattern on material and then cutting around the pattern with her specially sharp shears so what I wrote above was a highly individual take and not explained very well either!
See my previous note
Take a peek at John 15:1-2
Encouraging thanks! A footnote for ‘prunes’ said “The same Greek root refers to pruning and cleansing” and v3 “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” repeats same footnote. NRSV. Pondering on it 🙂
Thank you for these beautiful and wise words, Jake. They spoke to me today.
Thank you, Dee Dee. I’m glad these words resonated with you. Eastertide blessings…….
Beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you for this Jake. To start it was great to see you two in photos of you in your youth and today. Love is eternal. We have been together for 30 years. And are thankful for each other. It is great to share our lives as a couple. We are thankful to serve God daily. God’s peace.
Thanks, Kathy! We both give thanks for our years together. It’s been a good run and we hope for plenty more. Blessings……
Beautifully said. I am on the other side of that journey, traveling alone these days. The grief is not the same as I expected. I have become a different person, with God’s help. Still the moments he isn’t there to share are difficult. The Love continues, as you said. And my.Mantra is, “God has a plan.” Thank you, for many years of inspiration and encouragement, Father Jake. Kay
Thank you for sharing your grief journey and the wisdom you’ve gained from it. And thank you for being a part of my reading community. These connections mean the world to me
Thank you Bishop Jake for this. I too believe that, whenever we give love, when give of ourselves, we get a fleeting glimpse of the love that God has for us. Our times and the times of those we love are finite, as you noted, and there will be times when we have to go on without the other, be it a person or a pet like your Gracie. But for that wonderful moment in time, God’s love flows through us to others and we are a part of their, and our walk home…
Wise words, Bret. For me the awareness of my finitude heightens my understanding of the sweetness and goodness of this life. It makes me deeply grateful to God. Blessings……
Thank you, Bishop Jake, for this inspiring reflection. It affords me much opportunity for thought on walking with my loved ones late in my own life and reminds me that the love we share touches others along the way. “To love another person is to see the face of God!” from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables comes to mind.
It makes my heart happy to know you and Joy are walking one another home.
Hugo’s words could well be my mantra. Thank you, Kathryn. And I feel deeply grateful to be walking this path with Joy. What a gift!