Two Questions

Many years ago I heard the account of a woman who had had a near death experience. When she “returned” she said she’d been asked two important questions about mortality: “How well did you love?” and “What did you learn?”

When I have my tête-à-tête with Saint Peter at the pearly gates, I can well imagine him asking me these questions. I think they are essentially the follow-ups to the two challenges Christ gave us in Matthew 22:37-40:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

What might it mean to “love well”? While “love” often brings to mind pastels, softness and durability (not unlike toilet paper commercials, come to think of it), love is also blood, guts, sweat, wrestling, weeping, commitment, hope, faith, forgiveness, mercy and a whole host of rigorous and messy qualities and disciplines.

We can easily share in love and joy at momentous occasions – the birth of a child, the marriage of friends, covenants made and celebrated.

Sometimes love requires more muscularity than that. How well do we love when a child is stillborn or brain damaged or incomprehensibly rebellious? How well do we love when the two friends who have just married are gay? How well do we love when the child “born in the covenant” decides against the path we imagined and embraces a different theology or lifestyle? How well do we love when saints in the kingdom criticize other saints – regardless of the issue or the “side”? This love stuff is not for the faint of heart.

I have learned in my own wrestlings with some of the wrenching challenges of life, that God wants me personally A: to recognize my own inability to fully understand other people’s journeys, B: to neither condemn nor condone them, leaving that to God and C: to love them. Still. And well.

Cue the music to “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus.”

Or, from another powerful song, here’s a poetic description by Michael Card of the high bar of love:

Love crucified, arose
And the grave became a place of hope
for the heart that sin and sorrow broke
is beating once again.        (From “Love Crucified, Arose”)

When Saint Peter asks me what I’ve learned, I will have to admit that I’m physics phobic (so don’t put me on the “engineering new worlds” committee unless there’s an “arts and design” subgroup.) I generally run from political discussions. I don’t play the piano. Or the harp, for that matter.

But I have learned that relationships matter more than I can comprehend. I have learned that the adventure of “filling the measure of my creation” is a worthy, joyous, demanding and exhilarating lifetime exploration. I have learned that I feel most whole when I am creative, spiritual, loving and hanging on for dear (eternal) life to the grace and promise of my Savior’s atonement.

I have learned that God is generous with truth all over the world. I have, can and should search for and embrace it all as part of the Gospel. I have also learned that the “truest” experiences I have had affirm a unique authority in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

(You may  wonder why I don’t just use the more succinct, traditional phrases to say all that. I have learned that pat phrases along these lines generally confuse me, so I feel most authentic coming up with my own words.)

I’m in no rush to parlez with Saint Peter, but I am grateful to spend a lifetime learning to love and loving to learn.

How does contemplating these two questions frame your take on mortality, love and learning?

About Linda

(Prose Board) splits her time between the mountains of Utah and the prairies of Illinois, generally confounding the postal service. She compiles inspiring collections of LDS women talking about topics dear to (or prickly in) LDS women's hearts (visiting teaching, Relief Society, motherhood, etc.) through Cedar Fort Publishing. Her forthcoming book "Candy Canes & Christmastime: Enhancing the Holidays in the Real World" is available for pre-order on Amazon! She also writes for children ("Come with Me on Halloween"), illustrates, writes poetry, plays with fabric and can be bribed with dark chocolate.

4 thoughts on “Two Questions

  1. Linda you have beautifully articulated the thoughts I have had recently about this very topic of love particularly as it relates to how I support those with whose choices or lifestyles I disagree with. I have had to “wrestle” it out as you have and I have come to the same conclusion. That my job is not to judge (That is God’s job description, not mine). My job description as given to me by my Savior is to love one another, whether it is wishing gay friends who just got married a long and happy life together or whether there is criticism of my fellow saints from other fellow saints related to what I know to be the divine role of women (in and out of the church). I am a firm believer that we will be asked about the quality of our relationships, not about our checklist of what was done vs what was not. I often recall a lesson you gave way back when we were in the LFP ward in Cambridge and your testimony that no matter what our struggle in life, our attendance at church was the right place to be and it’s where He wants us to be. I too am grateful for every new day to be able to love better that day than I did the day before.

  2. Beautiful and true. I’ve never heard “muscularity” and “love” used together. This was my favorite phrase in your piece. It will stay with me for a long time. I want my love to be muscular.

    Your words bring to mind something I read at 15 years old. And I’ve never forgotten it. From Gibran’s “The Prophet” — “But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

    If we would know God, we must choose to know the depths of love. It will shake us and nearly break us. And then it will save us. Thank you for your insights, your gift with writing, Linda. God bless.

  3. Wonderful post and beautiful thoughts! I’ve been thinking lately about how one of the great graces of the Atonement is that it lifts the task of judgment from our shoulders and replaces it with the task of love. Love isn’t an easy task, but it’s a healthier and better one for us embodied mortals, stuck as we are in our own heads.

  4. Love–real love–is messy. It’s smiling at your spouse as you’re both covered in unpleasant evidence of children’s illnesses and saying, “There’s no one else I’d rather be sharing this with than you.” It’s cleaning up after and caring for the parents and grandparents who once cleaned up and cared for you. It’s acknowledging the good qualities and biting your tongue (even to the point of bleeding) about the bad when family or friends choose paths you would not. It’s trusting the power of eternal covenants when one you love crosses over before you.

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