Written by Malachi Brown
I am an introvert. Many of my dearer friends know this, but a lot of them have only found out more recently as I’ve more often come straight back to the dorm and gone to bed. Especially in the past, and especially to people who observe me from afar, sometimes it was a shock to find out that talking to people really takes energy out of me. My roommate since freshman year has been instrumental for my mental health — we’ve roomed together for six semesters, and we’ve probably said less than 1,000 words to each other the whole time. It’s refreshing to know that once I’m in my room, I have no social obligations (until one of my residents locks himself out of his room).
It would actually be very fun for me to put in my AirPods, keep my head down and just keep walking forward throughout my day. I would certainly save a lot of my energy that way, but I know that is no way to live.
We talk of God as our avenue to existence, the trunk that gives us water to produce fruit. If this is the same God that 1 John says “is love,” then we know that for us to exist means to partake in and carry on this love.
Perhaps you’ve noticed what I have: People who pray, fast, study scripture and worship are more aware of their surroundings and of the brokenness around them. Yet, we often hold those who volunteer at food banks, donate to nonprofits, buy food for the unhoused or stay at the hospital with their friends in even higher esteem as someone who “gets it.” The command to love God is an invitation to exist, to feel the presence of sin all the more deeply, to be saddened or enraged by the incomplete state of creation. The command to love thy neighbor is an invitation to exist outside of yourself, to help heal sin where we can see it and to live as if we have already reentered the Garden of Eden.
I think Socrates was on to something when he said “to perceive is to suffer,” because the man who understood more than anyone else the sins of the world suffered as much as anyone could. To perceive is to partake in the suffering of Christ, to look at sin, to feel it in your body, your mind, your relationships and your words. We can only love as Christ did if we exist enough to feel what is wrong. We only experience the new creation by knowing the old one. We are only resurrected when we are crucified by our own sin.
Perhaps we should all take our AirPods out, give an awkward smile to the person we bump into on the stairwell and ask forgiveness from the person we insulted. Only when we look up and perceive can we know where our love is needed — and it happens to be needed everywhere. You’ve asked me all year long, “What’s good, Malachi?” and I’ll tell you. There are no things greater than to love and to exist. To love is to be like our creator, and to exist is to be loved by our creator.