A few months ago, my daughters were in my office for the afternoon doing schoolwork while Erin was running some errands. Well, they were supposed to be doing schoolwork; instead, they were scribbling through a pad of sticky notes with markers. After they left, my office looked like an autumn day beneath the Post-It Note tree. As I raked up the litter on my floor and desk, I came to one note placed intentionally in front of my chair. The message: “I ♥U!”
This is Holy Week, the sacred days leading up to Easter Sunday. In the Christian tradition, this week is a mess. It’s littered with anxiety, betrayal, disappointment, tears, denial, violence of the most graphic nature, and finally death. It’s a mess. But at the bottom of the mess, beneath the litter of dysfunction and disaster, God has placed a note: “I ♥U!”
The note is written in words like “just as I have done, you also must do” (John 13:15) and “however, not what I want but what you want” (Mark 14:36) and “forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). And these words, and many more like them, are lines from a strange drama about the power of self-giving love, a love that overcomes the consequences of human fear and creates abundant life. This story, along with an equally amazing Christmas story, is the great “I ♥U!” message to you, me, and the world.
There are many interpretations about the Christ-centered story, but at the core, it represents an essential optimism about existence: no matter how evil might litter our world and our lives, love can always create Life. It’s not a Pollyanna optimism; rather, it’s a deep recognition that despite the tragedies that happen to us and happen because of us, new possibilities and new progress and new goodness can always rise again. Even at the bottom of the mess, “I ♥U!”can give Life.
I’m thinking about how I might leave notes of love in the messes I find, maybe even in the messes I help make. It’s easy to find piles of litter in our lives–places of misunderstanding and dysfunction, painful results of fear and anxiety, my own sanctimonious opinions that cause me to prejudge situations and people, my own complicity in the suffering of others. I’m going to look for those scraps of litter I’ve had a part in tossing to the ground. And I’m going to try, to the best of my ability, to leave notes that say “I ♥U!”–notes that give Life. How about you?