Human love

O Sapientia

It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.

The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.

With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.

Madeleine L’Engle

For those of us who believe in God, we likely also believe that God is the giver of life, the ultimate source of being who breathes us into existence and sustains our lives from one moment to the next.

But a belief in a life-creating and sustaining God doesn’t preclude the fact that we rely on our fellow humans to make it from one day to the next. 

On a very basic level, our physical survival depends on the food grown by farmers, the medical attention offered by health care professionals, and the shelter provided by contractors, plumbers, electricians, and so on.  Equally important, our emotional and spiritual survival depends on the love and care we receive from our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, friends, teachers, pastors, co-workers, and therapists, to name of a few of the vital sources of strength and hope that we turn to on a frequent basis.

I love this poem by Madeline L’Engle because, while honoring the supreme being, it captures the need we have for other humans:  “Though above the angels swarmed, / man’s love it was that made me able…”

The message this sends to me is two part:

1) The people who support us are precious, precious gifts.  In gratitude, may we turn to them and lean on their love in order to do what good we can while on this earth. 

2) We are beholden to each other.  May we be a gift from heaven to each other, by lightening one another’s loads, by warming and cherishing those we care for (and those we maybe don’t), and by putting others “not away” from us.  Even when we are dismayed like Joseph, may we choose to show love.

“Nurture Strength of Spirit”


In addition to causing joy in the present, reading adds to my internal roladex of humor, wisdom and inspiration.  Being able to recall words of comfort and light when I am feeling lost or glum is a real source of strength and courage for me.

Lately, I have been returning to the Desiderata, a poem attributed to Max Ehrman, again and again.  My recent move (and all that moving entails, from starting a new job, to feeling lonely due to not having made new friendships yet, to feeling homesick for my old city) has been more challenging than I anticipated.  Different phrases from the Desiderata have come to mind at different points in the past few weeks, and, like a hot cup of tea on a cold and drizzly day, each has given strength to my spirit.

The Desiderata, by Max Ehrman

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.