Wednesday, February 16, 2011

love & onions

I've got onions on my mind. Chalk it up to another inspired thought from the counseling office. You've probably heard some metaphor or another about how people or life or grief or healing are a lot like an onion. Lots and lots of layers. It's a good metaphor, I think. Except we're not confined to a little ball. Our layers our infinite. We spend our entire lives peeling back one layer of healing, one layer of growth, one layer of character development, one layer of revelation at a time, and we never reach the end. There's always, always something more to learn in life, about ourselves and each other and God and how the world works.

Sometimes I feel like a poor, cowering little onion trying to hide her nakedness, as one layer after another is stripped away. But I know I'm not really naked, far from it, though it may feel that way at times. Just when I'm adjusting to one new layer of skin, another is exposed. I want to beat my little onion fists against the wall, begging the peeler to slow down and give me a break. And yet I know I thrive on the peeling back process as much as a plant thrives on pruning.

Love is a lot like an onion, too. To think we can peel it back and look at it in one fell swoop is laughable. Who can peel an onion like that? Surely not even Chuck Norris. Love has infinite layers of depth and dimension, and the sense of exposure at times is nothing more than adjusting to the vulnerability and maturity required of me in a new layer of love's onion. I can shrink back from it and clutch my layers against me, refusing to be peeled any further, this is true. But my love will be stunted, and I don't want that. I want to love deeper. I want to love further. I want to love wider. I want to love higher. And the only way to that ever-expanding capacity to love is through peeling.

My counselor suggested we need to learn how to love smarter, not harder. To do this requires a willingness to learn the love language of another, which is tricky, because no two languages are exactly the same. We can learn to be fluent, perhaps, in two or five or ten love languages, but it takes smarts. It takes courage. It takes tenacity. And it takes the humility of an onion.

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