{Day 4} Paying Attention to Love

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In a quite absolute, final way, what you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. –Pedro Arrupe, SJ

The past three days we’ve been practicing paying attention: to what we hear, to the living creatures around us, and to thankfulness.  Continuing to expand the practice of paying attention, today I’d like for us to focus on love.

What and who are you in love with?

Write down what comes to mind off the top of your head (and heart).

When we talk about being in love with someone, often there is a romantic connotation, and certainly, infatuation can be a transient and not always life-giving experience. But in this case, I’d like to define being in love as any love that captures our hearts and spurs us on toward being more deeply present to and engaged with life.

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Two young people, Jack and Jane, have captured my heart with a fierce protective love, and make me want to be the kind of person they can love and respect. I love our herb walks and our talks about the tallest skyscrapers, reading stories, and telling tales to each other.

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For me, I find that places and communities can engender this kind of love. Years ago, I stood on the top of Queen Anne Hill, looking over Seattle, and realized I loved the city deeply. My two church communities–Bethany Presbyterian and St Paul’s Episcopal–worship Jesus in quite different ways, but the people of both places have captured my heart. Both churches feel like home to me, just as the city does when I’ve been gone for any amount of time.

Being in love can also be expressed in an hobby, job or vocation. We invest heart and thought and prayer energy into this love. When we do what we love, there is a sense of timelessness and flow–we get lost in the doing. As Pedro Arrupe writes, we know we are caught up in love because it gets us moving in a way that other activities don’t.

But most surprising, I have found that one of the clearest ways to find out what or who we love is to pay attention to what breaks our hearts.

One morning, many years ago, I was sitting at a cafe in downtown Seattle. It was cold and windy, with the standard misty rain blown like frozen spray against the morning commuters. I waited for my bus at a window seat, warming up with some hot chocolate, and watched everyone scurry by.

Except one older woman.

She stood on the corner across the street, head up even in the wind, Real Change Homeless Newspapers held tightly, eyes seeking out the passersby.

I watched as no one looked at her, even passed further around her than necessary.  And my heart broke because here was one of my city’s residents trying to make ends meet by selling the paper, yet up against weather and invisibility.  I was surprised at my tears in that public place. I’d known I loved the city, but God showed me that I was in love with its people–that their sorrow could break my heart. Taking her some hot chocolate and buying a paper from her, the next week I began helping out at Real Change, getting to know the Seattlites whose only life-line was to sell the paper.

I think Jesus was the woman for me that day, showing me my own heart…and his.

Practice: What or who are you in love with? What breaks your heart and how might you trace that grief back to love? Simply pay attention as you go about your day, read the paper, interact with people, complete your tasks. No need to do anything except notice. No need to change your life, add or subtract anything from your schedule. Just pay attention to the moments that love visits your heart.

31 Days

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  • Thank you for this thoughtful post (and for loving my kiddos!) For the past year or so, I’ve noticed my heart breaks over children with cancer. What am I supposed to do with that, friend?