by Christine Sine
I have an extensive collection of heart-shaped rocks and other heart-shaped objects. Some were gifted, a few purchased, but the majority I picked up on beaches, pebbled pathways and even in scrap heaps. They are everywhere, these heart-shaped reminders of a God who loves us unconditionally. Even my tomatoes sometimes come in the shape of a heart.
The unfortunate thing is that I never noticed heart-shaped objects until a friend, who began collecting similar objects years ago, pointed them out to me. She encouraged me to look intentionally for such objects and suddenly my eyes opened wide to God’s displays of love hidden all around us.
As I reflected on this last week I realized that the evidence of God’s love is everywhere present, not just in the heart-shaped rocks we pick up, but in our friends and neighbours, in the generosity of strangers, in the selfless sacrifices of those who care for the marginalized and in the dedication of those who work to overcome injustice and to preserve the earth…. and we often don’t notice because we don’t look around us with intentionality.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Then I asked myself: Where have I seen patience, kindness, humility, lack of envy and boasting, concern for others, rejoicing in the truth, trust, protecting the vulnerable, hope and perseverance this week? I was amazed at how that stack of heart-shaped acts and attitudes piled up around me. The person at the store who helped me with a heavy load, the friends who helped me pick and process apples, my husband making dinner so that I had more time for processing, the understanding doctors and nurses helping me to negotiate my health challenges, the organizations at our church’s Rainwise Garden Fair passionate about reducing water pollution and flooding, the pastors of small churches in East Harlem , planted in their neighbourhoods for 30+ years and still committed to seeing the transforming presence of God in their congregations. What a heartwarming exercise to try and list these and recognize how extensive the evidence of God’s love is all around me. Eventually I ran out of time, but I walked away with a warm glow inside still feeling that my list only scratched the surface.
Next I read 1 John 4:7-12 which I think is beautifully expressed in The Passion Translation:
Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. 8 The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love.[a]9 The light of God’s love shined within us[b] when he sent his matchless[c] Son into the world so that we might live through him.[d]10 This is love:[e] He loved us long before we loved him. It was his love, not ours. He proved it by sending his Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.[f]
11 Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! 12 No one has ever gazed[g] upon the fullness of God’s splendor.[h] But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us.
Loving one another should be our way of life! Easier said than done, but when we remind ourselves frequently of the expressions of God’s love around us we are more likely to move in the direction of expressing love in and through our lives, which makes it easier to ask the next question – Where did I express God’s love in my concern for others and for God’s creation this week? Where did I fail to express love? This last list seems to be the longest of all, unfortunately, but I continue to work on it!
My reflection on my heart-shaped rocks culminated, at least for the time being, in the writing of the poem below. Perhaps you would like to join me in this exercise. Walk around your garden, neighbourhood park or a rocky beach. Collect all the heart-shaped objects you can. Bring them home and reflect on the unexpected places you have seen God’s love this week.
God we thank you
For the wonder of your love,
For in it is hidden the wonder of who you are.
Wherever generosity is shared,
Your love is proclaimed.
Wherever compassion is expressed,
Your love is at its root.
Wherever forgiveness breaks forth
Your love gives it birth.
Your love never stops loving,
It is ever patient and kind,
A safe place to shelter from fear and anger and violence.
Let it find a permanent home in us
and become our way of life.
Love pouring from you to us,
from us to you
and out into the world you love.
Christine Sine 2021 (Inspired by I Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4)
Now live and ready for registration! Join Christine and Lilly for a virtual retreat unlocking the wonder of the Advent season on November 20th, 2021 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm PDT.