And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge….–if I am without love, I am nothing.
In the 1970’s, I was in my teens and twenties. I sought knowledge (along with the sex most of us also seek at that age). I studied the great classic works of philosophy, poetry, physics and biology. I learned much of the radical faith of the early Quaker’s. I started into a particular discipline and studied that, preparing to teach it to children.
In reflection, I don’t think those were the important lessons of that period of my life.
In the 1980’s, I sought to be prophetic. Perhaps there’s an issue of our day with which we can make a difference in our society or my community. Can we showcase the Central American refugee to make all see that making war there is wrong? Can we find dozens, scores or hundreds of nuclear free zones in this community?
In reflection, those efforts don’t seem to have borne lasting fruit.
Knowledge and prophecy haven’t made as much difference to me or to the people around me as love has.
One important lesson from college was to respond to a personal need even if it took me away from my spiritual study and prayers. That response is one of the lessons that I still can remember. On my best days, I practice it.
My important work of the 1980’s included joining and developing a family. It was also important to build positive relationships with students and colleagues at the middle school where I worked.
The family is still functioning–more or less. The children have become healthy adults; the parents have each retired from primary careers.
Most of the school building has been destroyed. The relationships I built with students still allow them to greet me pleasantly in this small town. In some cases, my former students have allowed me the privilege of teaching their own children.
Central America’s wars have cooled over thirty years. There are still immigrants coming from Latin America. They need respect and love. Their children need education. Controversy is now over refugees flooding north from a different war on a different continent. They need shelter, respect and love.
There is always a time for love. If the society makes it difficult to leave our spiritual studies to love a Syrian or a Central American, then we learn to love in a way that is prophetic.
For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with. …. these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.