The weight of love
In an evening-lit corner of Durham Cathedral I sit opposite Mary.
A larger-than-life Mary, carved in wood with a face full of emotion.
She gazes down at Jesus. Jesus, laying on the floor after being brought down from the cross.
Did Mary know? Did she know that as she said ‘yes’ to God’s call she was saying ‘yes’ to this also?
The caption to the sculpture explains that this “portrayal of Mary’s presence at the crucifixion reminds us of the cost of her ‘yes’ to God all those years earlier. She is an example of discipleship and love that does not count the cost but is shaped by love for others.”
Mary’s ‘yes’ unfolded to this particular moment. In her face, you can see the weight of that costly love and sacrifice: the wood has split just to the side of one eye. Her face is riven, the split appearing like a tear.
Do you ever, in your saying ‘yes’ to God, feel the weight of that costly love and sacrifice?
God calls each of us, and whilst the details of our callings are different – different places, jobs, relationships, ministries – the pattern is the same - God calls us each to a life that is shaped by costly love.
Come with me, Jesus says, and I will make you fishers of people. You will search and seek the lost with me; you will feed my sheep, with compassion and care. Come with me, and your lives will be shaped by this searching, costly love.
This shaped life will transform us. It will leave us with stories of how we’ve seen God move and bring life and reconciliation. It will cause us to trust, obey, and love with more freedom and confidence. It will turn us into people who find and celebrate joy, even in the face of darkness.
To say ‘yes’ to God is to let your life be shaped by the love He calls you to.
But this shaping and transformation will leave you with scars. Scars like the split-wood tear that runs down the side of Mary’s face.
We are led to a compassion that brings us to our knees. To say ‘yes’ to God is to let your life be shaped by the love He calls you to – even when that love leads you to tears, as you pray and long for the dawn of new hope.
To say ‘yes’ to God is to be open to both the beauty and cost of being shaped by love.
There is a foundational truth that holds us steady through this shaping and transforming, too, and it is this: the One who calls you is also the One who is with you.
As your ‘yes’ to God unfolds, Jesus is with you. He enfolds you, gathering you up in His arms and strengthening you.
He comes to you first, without you having to strive or fight to be known. Worry and self-doubt can fall away, because Jesus chooses to draw near to you.
Christmas reminds us of this: Jesus comes to be God-with-us, and He enfolds us in this incredible love.
He knows you completely. He knows your fears and dreams, your loves, strengths, weaknesses, and joys. He sees your tears and your laughter, and He knows the secrets buried in your heart. Seeing all of this, He died and rose to life again in order to form you into the shape of His love.
His death puts to death all that estranges you from love and freedom and God, and His resurrection brings to life all that makes you whole.
He calls and empowers you to be more like Him.
The transformation He brings will never destroy you, but change you into the shape of His love - the original you, the you He made you to be.
This is the love of Jesus that enfolds you as life unfolds around you, as you hear God calling and you follow.
Be held steady by this love. Wherever your ‘yes’ leads you to, whatever it costs, you are enfolded in the love of Christ.