My dear, it’s four-leaf clover time
From now on my heart’s working overtime
‘S wonderful, ‘s wonderful
‘S marvelous, ‘s marvelous
That you should care for me
What a comforting song! Here it is sung by the restful Diana Kral:
or, if you prefer this is the inimitable Doris Day singing it (eventually):
Being cared for, being truly loved, is surely the most wonderful and life-affirming experience of any human life. As the song says, it is amazing that anyone would love us truly and completely — and, in real life, after they truly get to know us too. I read somewhere that love is when we care deeply for someone not in spite of their faults, but because of them. This is not because our critical faculties are turned off (though they may have been at the start!) but rather that we come to love the whole of the other person; even the parts that are irritating and annoying. Of course I am not talking here about putting up with domestic violence or abuse. Love exists only in a context of mutual respect and honour. True love cannot thrive in codependency or be based around exploitation or addiction. Love is not the same as need, or a craving for validation or self-affirmation. It can only become that mutually “‘s wonderful” thing in a partnership of equals.
Nonetheless there may be times when one partner needs greater tenderness or patience from the other, or than they have needed at other times in the relationship. Being alert to the other’s needs is part of what love is, surely, and the wonder that ‘you should care for me’ must, of course, work both ways. In fact love means ‘work’. The sort of songs that we hum (as above) or even the great lieder of classical music, usually based on incomprehensible German poems, with exceptional singers and equally deft piano accompaniment, all laud the delights of love. But no one mentions the persistent effort required to keep a relationship healthy, mutually upbuilding, and in tune with its own varying internal rhythms. Of course we shouldn’t, on reflection, complain about, what we might rightly term, the ‘labour of love’. It’s part of what love means and therefore requires.
And so I wonder, WHY do we expect our relationship with God to survive and flourish when we give it no more attention than that dead plant on our roof we always meant to re-pot but somehow forgot? WHY do we think a one hour visit to church, or a prayer or two now and again will mean our relationship with God is hunky-dory and needs no further effort on our part? Now, it is true that God waits for us and as in that marvelous parable of the prodigal son, goes up onto the roof (very wise in this weather) to look out and see if there is any sign of us coming back home to Him. On His part He is longing for us to return to love. For our part we might well have preferred the fleshpots of Paceville (unlikely), the beach, the shops, the lunch, the club, pub, garden or café. Or at any rate something other than working on our relationship with God. Sometimes I will do anything rather than open my Office book and say my prayers or sit silently somewhere in God’s presence and just be still. And when I say anything this includes sorting out the recycling, clearing the cupboards, folding the laundry, emptying the dishwasher or even once again (after thirty whole minutes have passed) scanning the Newspaper Apps on my phone to see if the world is due to end, President Trump has been a silly ass again (a dead cert it’s true), or if there is yet another twist in the PN leadership saga — or tragedy whichever way you look at it.
God waits patiently on the roof meanwhile. He doesn’t say so but is He thinking,
‘Is Donald Trump or indeed the dishwasher really more important than me?’
I have said in other blogs how we hopeless humans need all sorts of prompts to pray or even to remember to pray. It may be church bells, it may be times and places, it may be special get-togethers (someone told me it is the International Day of Prayer for the Maltese Islands on 9th August which is a good idea). Let’s face it if our loving personal relationships needed bells to remind us to care, we would be horrified at our carelessness and thoughtlessness. What a good idea in Thy Kingdom Come week to pray at c.9am and c.6pm together. It felt good to know someone else was struggling, or trying, like me. And if we succeeded at 9am or 8am or whenever we choose — then why not an hour later or an hour earlier, or at midday or midnight?
In this weather I am going up to the roof a lot in the evening, even very late on, because there is a breeze, and the cityscape view, and a tiny peak of the sea — and now I come to think of it, God is waiting up there for me too ….
‘O Lord, how hopeless I am without you. I don’t mean to be. I just forget. I have great excuses, though, if you want to hear them? You do? Even about the dishwasher? And you don’t mind … because at least now I am talking to you – even about my silly distractions and self-justifications? How can you be bothered? Because you love me? And I love you. But I need you to help me to love you better than I do. Please help me. Here on the roof. If I come up here will you help me to talk to you? Ah, right, ok then — Help me just to listen to you …