Wednesday, April 6, 2011

By this we know love

Late one night last month, a few days after the earthquake in Japan, my phone rang. It was my dear friend Benedict, the formerly homeless man I met in college. My heart leapt a bit, worried that a late-night phone call might forebode an emergency, and Lord-knows he’s had more than his share of those.

“Hello there!” I answered with masked cheerfulness, bracing myself for the worse.

“Hi,” his voice on the other end was serious, his gravity unburdened with pleasantries. “Em...” he struggled, and couldn’t continue.

“What is it, Benedict?” I asked, my voice sinking to match his somber tone.

“I was just watching the news tonight,” he explained, “and I saw what’s happening, and I remembered...” he struggled again... “what country was it where your family moved?”

A rush of relief flooded me. “Oh, Benedict,” I assured him, “it wasn’t Japan. They’re far inland in Asia, nowhere near Japan. Don’t worry, they’re quite safe.”

His voice on the other end let out an immediate gust of relief. “Ahhhhhhhhh! Okay, that’s what I needed to hear. I just couldn’t remember, and I was so afraid. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight until I knew they were safe.”

And after we chatted for a few minutes about the whereabouts of my Asia-residing siblings and nephews, family members whom he has met only a handful of times in the past seven years of our friendship, I hung up the phone feeling quite humbled. In his love for me, Benedict has adopted the trials of my family as his own, despite his host of ever-gnawing trials.

Indeed, John tells us, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, as we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” And though the opportunity to die a hero’s death does not present itself to many of us, I suppose that just as Christ showed us love by entering into our sufferings, we also ought to enter into the sufferings of others. Benedict at least has been willing to enter into the potential sufferings of my family as if they were his own.

That, coming from a man who knows what it is to suffer, was one of the most startling expressions of love I have heard in a while.

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