If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1
In the human economy of emotion, love feels conditional, and communication is the currency. At an early age, when we want a cookie, we learn to say the word “cookie.”
If you are a toddler, this utterance is grounds for applause, and yes, a cookie. You feel like a genius, but just for a minute. Trust me, Toddler, this will not last forever. Communication gets graded on a curve.
Once the miracle of your new speech has passed, you are told that merely saying “cookie” is not enough. You must enhance your demand by adding the word, “please.” And for a brief moment, everyone notes your good manners and once again you get your cookie.
But just when you get that phrase down, it’s no longer good enough. Now you need to craft your request in a complete sentence, “Please may I have a cookie?” Which rules will change next?
Prepare yourself for the next rodeo, Kiddo: it will be debate with someone who wants the same cookie you want. Now you will have to start using logical reasoning and legal arguments to defend your position (“They got more cookies than I did”) and be prepared for their rebuttal (“Liar, liar, pants on fire”). Your skills will be lectured on tone of voice (“Stop whining”) and timing (“Wait until after dinner”).
From early on, we are trained to use communication to garner other people’s emotional reactions. Is it any wonder than when we get older, we might think all this applies to love, with love being biggest cookie of all?
But according to Paul, communication is not the key to everything. Smooth talk may soothe but it does not sustain. Love is not a cookie.
Today, let me speak, not with words, but through love. Amen.
Lillian Daniel’s new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.