Seems like a silly question, doesn't it? Since when do we have to know how to be in love?! Doesn't it just happen? Isn't it almost totally out of our control? Last time I checked it isn't something that we schedule and then manufacture for ourselves. It comes over us, a little like motion sickness only better. Maybe. Anyone else ever done something goofy or embarrassing or out of character because of that potent stuff? Thought so. Just look at this photograph! Are these reasonable, dignified adults? Are they acting as they should for people their age? We'd probably answer no to both of those questions but these two clearly seem to know how to be in love!
Ok, let me 'fess up. Someone else said it first. Someone else had the courage and raw honesty to admit it and publicly even. And because she did, it got me to thinking.
Notice that the issue is somewhat passive. Not knowing how to love. How to be in love. Loving is an act of the will. It's a choice. Being in love is like being in air. It's a state. A condition. Something we don't cause, and something we don't choose. No wonder we speak of falling in love. Who willingly signs up to do a faceplant on the way into the grocery store? Right. We try to avoid falling. We'd never schedule it! So, it's a great question to ask of ourselves: do we know how to be in love?
It's an admission Barbara Brown Taylor makes in one of her sermons. She says she's better at obedience. Following the rules. Keeping order. Doing what's expected of her. If that's a boat she's in, she's not alone. And it's probably larger than a cruise ship. For the vast majority of us, it is far more important to be reasonable and dignified than reckless and disorderly, acting appropriately than not fitting in. Her sermon is called The Tenth Leper. It's a story Luke tells in his gospel. It's a story that tells us a lot about ourselves.
We've heard about leprosy. Perhaps seen pictures. Maybe read some descriptions. Not pretty. Literally. Because a leper can't hide his or her leper-ness. (Wanna chase a rabbit? Think of all the not-wellness we can conceal so no one will know!) But in ancient times as well as times not so long ago, lepers weren't included in the stuff of everyday life. Couldn't work a job. Couldn't live with family. Couldn't shop in the market. Couldn't party and dance the night away. Couldn't be anything other than cast out and cut off. So, to be healed meant way more than finding a more appealing image looking back at you in the mirror. It meant restoration. Reconnection. Almost like a new lease on life. That's why Taylor is so fascinated with the one of the ten who acted the fool. Didn't listen. Didn't obey. Didn't do what was expected of him. Because he knew how to be in love. He was, in her words, "the disorderly one who failed to go along with the crowd, the impulsive one who fell on his face in the dirt, the fanatical one who loved God so much that obedience was beside the point."
Are we ever willing to have obedience be beside the point so that being in love becomes unabashedly our way of life like breathing?