This reflection was originally featured in my twice monthly newsletter but I wanted to share it here.

My daughter’s preschool teacher was away for a week this past fall. She had left the children with great care and intention. Making a countdown calendar so they could be assured how long she would be gone, she wanted the children to be certain of her return. My daughter who still isn’t old enough to tell the difference between “yesterday” and “last weekend” when telling a story came home and told me with precision how long her teacher had been gone and how many days until her return. And much to the surprise and delight of the class when she returned she came bearing gifts. In to each outstretched little hand sitting in their show and tell circle on the Noah’s Ark carpet, she pressed a small white sea shell. “See mom!” my daughter exclaimed as she turned out her pockets before bucking into her carseat “Ms Courtney brought it to us from the water!”

Love is a word that too often is smoothed into a thin, fragile veneer by the hard mallet of bad rom-coms and sappy holiday commercials selling jewelry and cars. The church can be just as bad, speaking of love in such broad terms or with such abstraction it loses the efficacy and nuance that makes it a rich feast instead of a thin broth. Its gets a designated Sunday in Advent, it gets sprinkled around when we talk about neighbors and grace. Sometimes the way we talk about love in the church seems far removed from the bumps and contours of people’s lives, of their family dysfunctions and marriage spats and the kind of love that leaves you worried sick about your children.

But as that small white shell sits upon my counter this week I am reminded that love is among many other things, an assurance of relationship. Love says “people are broken and tricky and trying, but I commit that even in the midst of that holy mess we will remain in relationship.” In the assurance of love we are not promised the magic of relationship but of its mystery. A mystery that engages us in a conversation on what it means to be human and what it takes to be in relationship with imperfect and impermanent things. That is one of the many meanings of baptism in the Christian tradition…that out of the water we can be made new again and again and again. It is a gift and a mystery that comes from the water.

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