I know I often refer to books and even articles I read as I get ideas to ponder in order to write these inspirational essays. I enjoy the variety of things I read and I value the chance to reflect on them. I am quite aware that if I did not write these essays, I would probably not take the time to reflect on what I read. That is not bad, but I also know that I would miss a great deal.
I also have become aware that I read a whole different category of work. This would be the pile of papers and examinations that routinely come my way. Some of my classes have weekly journal assignments, so there is a steady stream of papers that come my way. Some days I look forward to the reading material pouring in. And other days I feel more like, ugh, papers again!
When I step back and think about it, I realize the students are sharing some of their more precious thoughts. I feel privileged to be able to look into the window of their souls and glimpse their truths, their questions, their doubts and sundry other things. In effect, I get a chance to see their souls.
When I recognize this, I also recognize I am sharing a sacred space. I firmly believe our souls are sacred. And if I share something of my soul with you, I have shared some sacred space. That deserves respect. That merits your care in dealing with my soul. And of course, the obligation is just as real for me. So when the students share some of their soul, I owe them respect and care.
I felt that obligation come upon me last evening as I was reading a set of examinations. The student actually was working on an essay from one of my favorite books, Soul Making, authored by my Episcopal priest friend, Alan Jones. I felt like the student had grasped the essence of what Jones was saying in one of his chapters on love. The student commented that “love requires vulnerability and the willingness to trust.” I couldn’t agree more and commented as such on his paper.
I continued reading through that particular answer. And then I hit a phrase that made me smile. It was a good sentence, but I realized I had to read it a particular way in order to understand what the student was trying to say. In effect the student was talking about how to “make love work.” If English is your first or primary language, you probably can handle that phrase quite well.
It would be obvious to us that the word, make, is the verb in that phrase. We are correct. But if we look closely, the word, work, is also a verb. Clearly, the point of the phrase is something should work, namely, love. We “make” love work. And for us English speakers, “love” is a noun. “Love” is what we want to work. So we are good to go and we probably keep on reading.
What occurred to me, however, is actually all three words could be verbs. In the sentence I also realized that the word, “work” could also be a noun. We use it as a noun all the time. How many mornings do we hear people say, “I am going to do my work now?” Perhaps I am now confusing. But think about it. Love and work can be nouns or verbs. I can love or I can make love. I can work or I can do my work.
So now go back to the student’s phrase, “make love work.” Again clearly the verb is the word, “make.” We may be too quick to assume the word, “love,” is a noun. What if it were just a phrase with three verbs: make…love…work? Let’s assume that is the essence of soul work or soul making or soul loving.
Perhaps we are endowed with our Creator with that kind of charge. We are to “make.” This means we are to be creative. We are to be imaginative and help God fabricate the kingdom. I can well imagine God asking us to be co-creators of the kingdom to come. I am good with this, but my question is how? How do I do it?
The little phrase has already offered the answer. We do it by “love.” The kingdom will come when we learn to love (verb = action). I like the idea that we all learn to “love in the kingdom to come.” And if we can’t learn to love, we will never get the kingdom!
But the kingdom to come requires more than simply love. It requires “work.” I am fairly convinced that God won’t just give it to us. We will have to work for it. Part of the work is the love that we verbally do. But it also requires things like the work of justice. We cannot go around treating others unfairly and pretend we also “love” them. We have to work to heal the injustices, heal the woundedness in ourselves and in others.
I actually like these three words to be verbs. Verbs are action. I am ok with God’s desire that I make---that I love---and that I work. I am ready, Lord. Throw me into the Divine game---make me an active verb!