This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:12-13 (NLT)
A heavily studied belief in and understanding of Christianity, or the brazen lack thereof, is intrinsically woven through the fabric that is my belief in the Great Unknown. The bible is familiar to me, in the way a ring is still on your finger even after you’ve taken it off. So when Big Things happen in my life, oftentimes I remember a verse or two and smile at the return of my oddest and oldest spiritual friend.
One day, a few years ago whilst in the throes of religious fervor, I read an article with a new phrase—Golden Nuggets of Wisdom (GNW)—to describe the moment in which someone speaks something to you and the impact and power of what they have said resonates deeply in your soul, but barely means much of anything to them.
I had a GNW moment today (but contrary to my norm, I was on the receiving end). A friend who recently experienced the sharp pain that is heartbreak said this, “Because of you guys, I feel like my hurting divided into 4. Like I only had to deal with a quarter of the pain.” Immediately that verse from the Book of John flew into my mind and took on a gloriously rich new meaning.
Another day, a few years ago whilst still in the throes of religious fervor, I read yet another article that expanded my understanding of compassion. I had used the word often enough to that point knowing, but not knowing, what the word meant. I appreciate it more now and use it a lot less. Compassion isn’t about feeling bad for someone being in pain, compassion is suffering with them.
So when that friend said, to the 3 of us in our group chat, that we divided her pain in quarters, leaving her only a fraction of it to bear as her own, I further understood what it meant to be compassionate. I experienced, with an acute consciousness, what it meant to love one another in the same way that God loves us. Because she made me realize that, even without realizing it, I actively chose to lay down my life for someone—to lay down my disposition, my desires, my moods—and experience their life as my own.
For as long as we could and as long as she needed, the 3 of us suffered with her and transformed her pain into an experience of Grand Love. I dare say, we alchemized it into gold.