Sunday, May 26, 2002

Amazing grace

Big question in life: Do we have the courage to spread love?

        The human heart is only about the size of a doubled-up fist. But like a magical seashell that holds the sound of pounding surf, a single heart can contain an ocean of love that curls and crashes with the power and peace of green waves in the sunlight.

        Most of us have seen the raging tempests of passion and purple storms of grief.

        We know our love for our children and parents and brothers and sisters is deeper than the deepest blue Pacific.

        But how many of us dare to leave our safe harbors and explore the distant shores beyond the horizon?

        How many even risk losing sight of solid land — the friends and family we know?

        How many venture out on the deep and let down our nets?

Adventure of faith

        One day a friend of mine asked me if I would like to go on a voyage of faith. It was an adventure of the spirit, called The Walk to Emmaus, after the Bible story about the day the resurrected Christ joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus and revealed God's message to them.

        Without knowing anything else, I accepted.

        For three days, 30 men slept like prisoners on mattresses in tiny rooms at a former convent. We carried our cups from meal to meal. We were cut off from the outside world — no cell phones, pagers or calls. Our watches were taken away and there were no clocks. Cut adrift from time, we rose with the sun and slept when the “lights out” order came, long after dark.

        And we loved it.

        We loved the teaching about God's grace. We loved the singing that began as tangled saplings and grew into a chorus like a forest of oaks reaching for heaven.

30 pilgrims

        We loved the hours in prayer and meditation.

        Most of all, we loved God and each other.

        Yes, that sounds strange. Women seem to know how to love each other without hang-ups and insecurities, but men use insults as the counterfeit coin of kindness. “Hey pinhead,” we say, meaning, “I love you, buddy.”

        But through prayer, meditation and discussion, 30 pilgrims learned to love each other openly, without regard for background, jobs, age or race.

        We arrived as strangers and left closer than friends, because we shared the “Amazing Grace” that a storm-tossed sailor sang about long ago.

        The ancient Greeks called it “agape,” meaning unqualified love. They had dozens of names for different types of love. Maybe our idea of love gets stretched out of shape because we have only a one-size-fits-all word.

        I know this is an unusual thing to write about. Columns are supposed to be about politics, culture or Ken Griffey Jr.'s knee. The biggest questions in life are usually avoided like the weird guy on the corner holding a big yellow sign that says “Repent.”

        Don't worry. I'm not trying to argue for my faith as if it were as serious as baseball or politics. I just write this because I've returned from a voyage with good news:

        Even oceans have shorelines — and they are all connected if we have the courage to trust God and cross a little bit of open sea to find out what's on the other side.

        The heart can be a clenched fist. Or it can be an open hand raised to heaven, filled with so much of God's love that we just have to pass it on.

       Call Peter Bronson at 768-8301; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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