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A Call to Tears

A couple of nights ago, my husband, Gary, and I watched “Wit.” Somebody should have warned us to keep the tissues handy. Afterward Gary asked, “Why does stuff like ‘American Beauty’ win Oscars while movies like this remain unknown?” Good question.

In this 2001 flick Emma Thompson, who helped adapt the script from a Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama by Margaret Edson, stars as an English professor facing stage-four ovarian cancer. She has one relatively average but caring nurse; then she has a bunch of brilliant but distant physicians. Whom would you rather have near when you’re dying? In the end she prefers The Runaway Bunny to lofty poetry, human kindness to mental keenness.

Watching the film reminded me that in medical schools today professors often warn doctors-in-training to avoid “getting too involved” because of the emotional price tag. Therapists often receive the same warning. The reasoning is this: If you care for people, you will get your heart broken.

I’m grateful that the Great Physician didn’t ascribe to such a keep-your-distance approach to meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs. And He said that people would identify His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35).

Have you ever felt like someone’s project? Like someone viewed you a test to be measured or so many body parts? Have you ever viewed others that way?

Christian love and ministry involve actually choosing to care. To feel. To get involved. How else shall we be moved enough to “weep with those who weep”?

Yet there is a price to pay: Pain. And we know from experience that pain hurts. Bigtime.

One of the mysteries of the universe in a post-Fall world is that love and pain are all wrapped up together. Surely the Cross teaches us that.

Interestingly, several times in John’s Gospel we see that John gets his identity from Jesus’ love. When the disciple describes himself, he doesn’t say “John, son of Zebedee,” or “John, the fisherman,” or even a heady “John, of the Lord’s inner circle.” Rather, he describes himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

In Titus 2:4 we read that older women are to teach those they mentor to be “husbandloving” (philandros) and “childrenloving” (philoteknos). There’s that root word again—phileo or love. Warm love. Deep love. Care. It’s the kind of love that involves something in addition to the self-sacrifice required in agape. Phileo involves warmth and affection. If agape is a meal, phileo is a hug and a tear. Christians are called to both.

Are you in a helping profession or an instructor in some way? A parent? A friend? Take the risks that come with getting “involved.” Care deeply. Because “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

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