Friday, February 11, 2011

Love in the Time of Leprosy

I once knew a guy who, as a grand gesture of love, ate his newborn son's feces. Within a few days he had walked out on his family and was back to declaring his love of alcohol to the masses.
It reminds me of Namaan. He had leprosy and wanted to be healed. I always pictured him with a few fingers falling off, perhaps a loose nose. He was told to dip seven times in the Jordan River. He was indignant; it seemed so mundane. His servant girl pointed out that had the prophet asked to perform some grand gesture, he would have eagerly done it. If he was willing to do something remarkable, why was he so reluctant to do that which is unremarkable?
I suppose eating excrement is easier than giving up the bottle. I don't know. I have no interest in mocking him. It's easier to love in ways that are brash and loud. A girl I know put a status on Facebook that read "Look at this picture. This is the face of someone who would die for you. And if you can't see that, goodbye." I thought oh, sweetheart. The algorithm Facebook uses to generate updates to people is pretty random; do you know who you're saying you'll die for? Someone you once rode the bus with? Some boy you met in the mall? And if your love is strong enough to die for someone, shouldn't it be strong enough to stick around?
But how can I shake my head at her when I would rather love God in ways that are brash as well? He said that if we love him, we'll obey him. I think of Psalm 40:6, what David meant when he said "My ears you have pierced." In those days, when a slave's term was up, if he loved his master, he had the option of refusing to be set free. He would stand against the doorframe, and an aul would be driven through his ear as a symbol of unending servitude. I loved that the first time I read it. Fifteen years old, I circled it in purple marker, drew a terrible illustration in the margin with a ballpoint pen.
I liked Luke 17:7-10 much less, Jesus telling his disciples a servant should expect no reward for doing what's expected. Obedience wasn't received as an extravagant display of affection but as a given. I wanted Jesus to say if you respect me, you'll obey me. I didn't want love to imply such subordination; and if I was to be obedient, I wanted it to be uncalled for, more than what was asked for: spectacular, brassy, garish. I didn't want it to be simply my place.
How can even the desire to love be so riddled with sin?
Two days ago, the Flaco scooped an entire can of manjar into Lolita's hair, then ran his sticky carmel hands all over the floor and the walls. When I demanded to know why he had done it, he simply said I wasn't looking. I told him he's supposed to do what's right all the time, not only when I can see him. Oh, he said, eyes wandering around the room, disinterested. When you disobey, when you make make messes for me to clean, it makes me feel like you don't love me, I said. He looked at me, startled. He tipped his head to the side, studied my face for a while, and then crept towards me. I do love you, he whispered, even though I'm bad.
I wrapped him up in my arms. I saw him as small, as beautiful. The gap between his intentions and his actions was overlooked. He was mine.
God, I love you like an alcoholic father, like a leper, like a teenage girl, like a three-year old boy, but I love you.


erin said...

man, isn't that the truth...

missy said...

i love this!!! it's so true.
and i remember when we were 15 and you taught me that about "my ears you have pierced." it's been a picture that's always stuck with me.

B said...

such good truth here jenny.

The Goodfellas said...

i liked being 15 with you.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story Jenny. Is's so easy for our obstinance to rear it's head. Thank you for the reminder of how important our obedience and humility is to God.
PS, those boys are beautiful! BG

missy said...

pretty much changed my life.

rolli said...


Jason said...

once again you've brought tears to my often you speak the words of my heart.

Bethany said...

that last comment was by me (not Jason)