Marilyn Monroe (who, according to insider accounts was far smarter than her public image suggested) said, unforgettably, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
What a wonderful insight into how love works. It was something the apostle John knew well: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is completed in us. 1 John 4:11-12.
When Oliver Cromwell came to have his portrait painted, the artist (an early exponent of Photoshop) asked the celebrity if he would like his warts removed for the final portrait. No, Cromwell, replied, with a devastating humility, “Let it be warts and all.”
And if you want to share your life with the God who made you, let alone with the mad world full of the rest of us, then it’s always going to be “warts and all”. You’ve probably seen something like this on a thousand t-shirts: “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” Jodi Picoult wrote –in her powerful novel My Sister’s Keeper, “You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”
But it was St Paul who took love’s acceptance of a “warts and all” truthfulness to a whole new level in his letter to a bunch of squabbling Jesus-followers in first century Corinth: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13
No record of wrongs. No account of misdeeds. They’ve all been shrugged off. In the face of a shining, beautiful love, who cares about the silly stuff? It’s so peripheral, it doesn’t come into sight.
The poet E.E.Cummings made a valiant attempt at expressing the sheer power of loving and being loved. Here it is:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Love is –truly- all there is. It is the language and currency of the heaven that is to come and the heaven that is all around us as we live.
And Paul concludes the section in the familiar words “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Stressing the importance of love in his conclusion, Paul is saying that “Great as faith and hope are, love is still greater.” And it’s true: a faith without love is cold, and hope without love is a little like a cold ambition, isn’t it? But love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into something breathtaking.
One day faith will become sight and all hopes will be fulfilled, but love will still be the wonder that keeps the stars apart.