Recently, I learned that one of the men in our Centering Prayer group is leaving. He will be released from prison before the next meeting of our group. I felt sad to see him go and told him so. I was surprised that he would be moving on so quickly, but I was not surprised that I was sad.
The first day that I visited the prison, he was one of the men who got my attention. As he talked about why he was participating in the program, he mentioned that he had previously followed a spiritual path that would be considered controversial, if not risky or even an anathema to most Christians. But I don’t think it was the controversial nature of what he was saying that got my attention. I think it was his earnestness. I could sense that he held a deep truth. He hadn’t had the opportunity to live it out, but I think he knew something that some people never learn… that love saves.
While he would not admit it, I deduced from the stories that he told me that he had the gift of generosity. He gave to others knowing that he wouldn’t get anything in return. He gave because he knew he couldn’t be the person that he wanted to be if he didn’t. He gave so that the people he loved would have a better life. He gave to them hoping that they would recognize that he loved them, but anticipating that they wouldn’t. He also gave because he trusted that God would reward him.
Sometimes our hearts are too big for our bodies. Sometimes our life experiences break our hearts and restrict our ability to live as we intend. From what I know of this man, he was not able to grow up with his parents nor in a loving home. He did not receive love when he had needed it. But that didn’t keep him from trying to give it away.
While all of us are human and have experienced the pain associated with living in this world, some of us end up with more similar personalities. While I am not as generous as this man, we have come to orient to life in the same way. We’ve experienced in our early years that love is in short supply. But rather than turn greedy or mean, we’ve realized that love is precious and that the best way to make more is to give it away.