Thursday 7 December 2023

Embodying Love

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

—Colossians 3:12

During Advent, as we contemplate the profound mystery of God coming to dwell among us in human form, my thoughts turn in gratitude to all those people in my life who have embodied Christ’s compassion for me, and whose living example has profoundly shaped my own stumbling efforts to walk our Messiah’s path of grace and love.

Hendrik Hart, who left us to return to the God of love in March 2021, was one such person. Henk not only nurtured my intellectual gifts, but also showed me true friendship by dressing my spiritual wounds, sensing my struggle to stay connected to God’s love in Christ while I was at the same time harbouring profound doubts about my conservative Calvinist upbringing.

Sometimes Henk would address this situation with humour. In those early days, he once jokingly introduced me to people at an ICS event with the words, “This is Ron Kuipers. ICS is the last stop on his way out of the tradition.” In the early 1990s, when he said those words, he might even have been right. Yet thanks to the loving and faithful witness of my ICS professors and the larger ICS community, I never in fact boarded that final train.

Yet no one more than Henk illustrated for me through both his actions and his words the profound and mysterious truth that God is love. Importantly, he did so without skirting the dark realities of pain, suffering, and death. During his life, Henk had to say farewell to his wife, Anita, as well as his daughter, Esther. While grieving their loss, he was nevertheless able to remain grateful for the love they brought into his life. This experience inspired him to write the poem “Love/Love II,” in which he writes, “I experienced Love / dawning forcefully / at the dark edge of the abyss / in their last journey.”

Henk’s expression of surprise at feeling the profound Presence of Love while he was bidding farewell to those whom he loved most eventually builds to a crescendo in a verse that, to my ear, evokes a deep Advent truth:

The birth of Love in our life, 
foretaste of eternity:
this inexpressible joy will be ours

Henk’s life embodied the truth that because God dearly loves us, we may clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience—even in our darkest hour.

So, in the spirit of the Advent season, I wish you all the profound Presence of Love, of Immanuel, and hope that you experience this Love every time the candles we light for one another, both literally and figuratively, pierce the surrounding darkness.

Shalom, friends!
Ron Kuipers