I have been shown extravagant love. Throughout my life I have been loved well. My parents and grandparents loved me. My husband loves me with pure love. My son loves me too. I have had friends through the years whom I know love me. I can safely say I know love. I give it, I feel it, I recognize it, I receive it. I know love.
Even so, I was not prepared for the extravagant love that has been shown to me over this past month. I knew that turning fifty was having an interesting effect on me internally. Last year when I turned 49, I thought, “Okay, I have 365 days to get ready for this.” But how do you do that? The temptation to navel gaze is strong – asking questions about what I’ve really done with my first half-century and what I’ll do differently with the second half got distracting. Measuring myself against the yardstick of others to see where I fell short or excelled snuck into my thinking.
Luckily for everyone around me I don’t have a lot of time time for that type of introspection. As life unravels around us for people we love the luxury of self-focus doesn’t last long. Last year we lost precious lives to drugs and violence. We had young men locked up for bad decisions and emotional outbursts that led to heavy consequences. We have had families torn apart by events that feel daunting and hopeless. Interestingly, as the San Francisco economy booms, the young people and families we serve get further and further from hope of survival. I am constantly praying for more – more resources, more wisdom, more time, more energy, more space, more, more, more.
At the end of each day, while walking the dog and processing with my husband, we often come to the conclusion that what we have done well for that day is love people. We don’t have answers and we certainly don’t have enough of anything to solve their problems, but we can love them so we do. It feels so trite and I wonder sometimes if we are just trying to make ourselves feel better.
Then October, 2015 hit. I cannot begin to explain what happened. As I said I am not a stranger to love, but I have never been shown that I am loved in so many little and big ways. I have been the recipient of handmade gifts, unexpected cards, post-it notes, words of love, a surprise box of hand picked love (from my favorite broke college kid!), a tattoo in my honor, a scrapbook with pictures and memories old and new, donations in honor of my birthday, being whisked away for a beachside getaway, candy and sweets, a photo collage featuring little faces I adore and the honor of being remembered in a way that can only be described as extravagant. As my heart is full and trying to hold on to these pieces of delicate sugar that have been so elaborately poured out on me I realize how much I need this balm on my aching soul.
Through tears (surely from the candle smoke on my delicious birthday cheesecake) I began to thank some dear friends for the birthday party and the honoring, humbling words they had just lavished upon me and my thoughts went to the faces of kids and families we’ve had the privilege of journeying with through the years. My prayer was that they would experience extravagant love poured out in such grace and generosity that it would be balm to their ravaged souls. I wondered if they would ever know such love; and as quickly as the thought came to me the answer came, love is not trite. Extravagant love is not cheap or shallow. It doesn’t fix all our problems, but it certainly does give us the oxygen to breathe deep, it gives us the strength to take the next step. It is healing balm.
As I settle into the next half-century of my life I am thankful. Truly I am blessed beyond measure for having such love to wallow in. It’s like dancing in the rain on a warm day. I will vow not to take any of this for granted and continue to give love generously recognizing the deeply healing power at my disposal.
Have you been loved extravagantly? Do you love extravagantly? I hope so.
As we head into this holiday season I am looking even more deeply at how and where I can give the elaborate gift of love freely given. It costs us to love that way. My life will not be the same because in October, 2015 when I was turning fifty, people in my life chose to give me the costly gift of extravagant love.
Consider joining us this Christmas season by giving generously to Sunset Youth Services, allowing us to pour out extravagant, generous love in the hopes of being the healing balm.