Every once in a while, seemingly disparate, even oxymoronic thoughts become as one: love and writing are like that for me today. There is an audacity necessary to write and to love.
Love thy neighbor as you love yourself.
Christ’s words are clear in the Gospel passage we hear repeated so often- there are no subtleties here; or are there?
Recently, I have been thinking about this frequently repeated command of our Lord and wonder if we have it backward. Take a moment and ponder this seemingly simple and clear statement of Jesus. …’as you love yourself.’
Take your time but focus not on your neighbor and who your neighbor is but instead on the last statement of that imperative.
At times, each of us does battle with many of the characteristics of the person known as me…accepting those characteristics both good and bad; dark and light, learning to mitigate our vicious response to those dark characteristics when they are mirrored back to us by another person, understanding that our intense dislike of them is, in truth, our dislike of ourselves.
Carl Jung referred to that part of each person as our shadow and stated that becoming conscious of the ‘dark side of the personality’ is the essential condition for any kind of self knowledge. A couple of hundred years later, the shadow emerges in pop music in the lyrics of Kelly Clarkson, a young singer whose song, The Dark Side is one of my favorites:
Oh oh oh, there’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?
And later in the song:
Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect
But we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?
The lyrics are so powerful that I included them in the last (fourth) Lindsey McCall mystery, Malthus Revisited,. Lindsey is musing about herself: Her dark side which seems wholly black. And about her husband, Rich; she wonders in awe at his love for her, his acceptance of this shadow side of herself that she detests.
I know what she means.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself: there are days, are there not, when following Jesus’ second most important command, becomes impossible…because right now, we hate ourselves…? And perhaps precisely that impossibility is His fundamental message of love? ‘While we were still sinners, He died for us.’
More than anyone I think, mothers may understand the kind of love Christ speaks of; in some ways I think, they experience love more fully than do those of us without children. They see love as pure paradox: Love and pain co-existing in a kind of constant dance through birth of the child and then the inexorable process of letting go of that child to become a new mirror.
This latest book about the early, hidden life of St. Paul, has been enormously challenging on multiple levels. But finally, this remarkably contradictory man has revealed enough of himself for me to write about his early life. Much, if not all, of his battle with himself and his world hinges on love…
Perhaps this is so for each of us, and has been since the beginning. Maybe we should think of Christ’s command this way: Love yourself; only then can you love your neighbor.
There is an audacity necessary in loving and in writing. The audacity to do it and then to hope that it matters.
One aside: There will be a fifth Lindsey McCall novel. A delightful surprise to me…and I hope, to you!
As always, thanks for reading,