With foot on the garden fork, its prongs sunk into the roots of another vigorous weed, I lend my weight to the downward push and upward lift. Though it feels too late, I am finally making space for things to be planted and grow up in this thirsty ground. Roots separate from earth, extra soil and needed worms are shaken off, and the dandelion joins a growing pile beside me. Also beside me, a little girl makes circling turns of the vegetable plot, asking her questions and sharing her worries as she walks.
I am so grateful Love came to me and called me today. I am so grateful that the To-Do list was left behind and that I remembered what love is and does.
Love makes space for the other.
Here the space is created by no errands to run, no people to see. And here space is created by a task that allows togetherness without intensity: our eyes don’t often meet but our hearts and minds can, and there is the rhythm of the push and lift, and of the circling turns, to keep us both occupied and yet available.
And so, as I dig and she paces, I ask her questions; and there is no way she could know from my casual tone and downturned eyes how deeply I long to hear her answers, how infinitely precious this conversation is to me. I cherish the way a soul hides its secrets, and then how it unfurls these secrets, like a fern in the spring, when it senses that safety and acceptance are coming out to meet them. The unfurling happens slowly at first, then with growing boldness and freedom, as each new leaf or tendril meets the sun and moisture it craves.
I hear this growing boldness and freedom in her voice – in the confusion she expresses, the emotion she begins to convey and the rising desire to hear my response.
And as we talk and the relief starts to flood her veins – simply that she is heard and understood and loved – she tells me why she had been so silent walking home after school. She was thinking, muddled, worried, and deciding she would talk to God about all this swirl later, when she went to bed. But, she tells me, it’s like God has already heard her and already answered and helped her through this conversation. Even before she really prayed. She was amazed and grateful to realise this. And I was grateful too: that Love came out to meet us both today, and that Love created a space for us to meet each other.
And isn’t this what love does? Isn’t it always running to meet us? Always longing to be gracious to us and rising to show us compassion?*
Isn’t love what makes space for us? And also what fills the spaces between everything and inside everything, by always going out of itself, out towards the other and down into the low and thirsty places?
Doesn’t it always answer before we call and hear while we still speak?*
We go inside together, and while I’m washing the dirt from under my nails I tell her that if she ever wants to talk about these things again she only needs to ask. She’s silent for a moment, but the freedom is still there to be vulnerable, and she ventures: “I’m wondering what you’re thinking now. Are you thinking that you’re glad this conversation is over, that it went on too long?”
I pull her to me and look into her eyes – because there are times when the eyes do need to meet – and tell her softly, truly, that I love to talk about these things with her, love to hear her, always love to hear her.
Because that’s what love does.
* Luke 15:17; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 65:24.