“To give your life so another person can live is the ultimate proof of love.” (Our Daily Bread, April 6, 2012)
Most would agree. But recently I read about another expression of love that may be just as great, if not greater.
The Wounds of God tells the story of Tom, a young monk in the fourteenth century. Tom disappeared from his abbey to follow a young lady. Months later, he returned. Tom asked the abbot, a kind, but righteous Father, for admittance. According to tradition, the abbey community would decide.
Such a case would include a test of waiting. After a good night’s rest and breakfast, Tom stood outside the abbey’s walls and endured the icy December winds. All day he watched the comings and goings of the abbey. At times, he went back to knock on the door. No one ever responded. By late afternoon, it was dark. By evening, Tom was famished. He realized they meant to leave him out in the cold all night.
The next day was much the same. By the third day, he wondered if they would ever come for him. He started walking home, then stopped. What if he missed them?
That morning, one of the brothers brought him a bowl of soup. Again, Tom waited all day. All night.
The next morning when the door opened for him, Tom was too feverish and weak to stand or hardly speak. He was brought before the community. Permission granted. Ordeal over.
Was Father Abbot heartless? “Brother Thomas has a welcome in this house again and it would have taken nothing less to win it for him,” commented one of the monks.
I wonder what Father Abbot was thinking while Tom suffered alone. Did the abbot force himself to sit on his hands, bite his tongue, immobilize his feet to keep from ending the suffering? He could have done something! He had the power. But Tom needed to be brought to utter weakness for his own good. To be admitted back to the abbey as he desired.
Are you familiar with Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 for believers? Verse 19 culminates with “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
What is the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge? A love experienced.
That’s what Tom learned those three days and nights, suffering from hunger and cold. He experienced the love of his abbot. The Father willing to lay aside his power, knowing the one he loved was hurting.
And that’s what we experience when we face hardship, grief, disappointments, and loss. God has the power to fix it. Instead, in a sense, He sits on his hands, bites his tongue, and immobilize his feet. For our good. In our times of greatest weakness, we are awash in His love.
What do you think? Could times when God restricts His power -- when He watches us as His dearly loved ones suffer to accomplish something eternal in our lives -- could that love be just as great or greater than giving His life?