Quick-Eyed Love

Sometimes I feel a little bombarded.

I take it as business-as-usual when the world hurls arrows at me that I’m not smart enough, rich enough, thin enough, pretty enough. It’s accepted, it’s the norm. It becomes harder to handle, however, when those messages come from circles closer to the heart, where those arrows do damage.

“You shouldn’t be so analytical.”

“You shouldn’t be sick.”

“You shouldn’t say that.”

Think like us, talk like us, dress like us, sing like us. Which to me, the ever-analytical Antz, equates to: you’ve been weighed and found wanting, you don’t fit. I slink off into the distance, dejected and lonely.

Most of us – nay, I am going to hazard ALL of us – don’t want advice. Perhaps what most of us wish for is a little kindness, companions on Life’s Journey, the kind of friendship that ” … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves). There is nothing superior in an attitude that comes alongside, commited to connection before correction.

1 Cor 13:8 says that spiritual highs and thrills are going to fade. It says even knowledge is going to drift along like deadwood on a rapid riverstream. Absolutely every THING you think is grand will pass… but LOVE remains. It’s the steady constant. And this LOVE doesn’t ride rough-shod over its object:

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.” (1 Cor 13:7 MSG)

Love others, and love them deeply. Love them as they need. Cultivate, feed. Share a meal, show some interest. Think twice before you impose an opinion. It’s so rare – the world sitting right next to you is so thirsty for this love, so very hungry for it. Hundreds of years ago, George Herbert penned a poem about this Love. He speaks here of a Love that is quick to spot discomfort, unease – Love that notices shame but does not shame. You aren’t ‘too much’ for this Love, you aren’t ‘not enough’. This Love will go the distance with you. It’s not a weak Love, but neither does it raise its Voice – it beckons, it invites, “Come sit, and eat”.


George Herbert. 1593–1632

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

(Source: Bartleby)



Twenty-eight. I was only twenty-eight when the doctor said to me, ‘I’m sorry, the biopsy has come back negative and you have cancer. Would you like someone to speak to?’

When you’re in your 20s, you’re invincible. Absolutely unstoppable, filled with energy, plans for days, friends, fun, life to the hilt. And suddenly the giddy merry-go-round that is your young, happy life jerks abruptly to a halt, and piece by piece, life as you know it falls to bits. You lose not only your physical resources to get through a day, but friends disappear. Replaced by the doom prophets of You Did Something Wrong for this to have happened, and You’re Going to Die. Mirrored in the faces of my younger sister and brother too: fear of it all being over too fast, too soon.

I could fill library shelves with tomes on tests and doctors and endless waiting in government hospitals, sitting on hard seats, watching people emerge sometimes from a consulting room crumpled in misery as death sentences got handed out. I could fill galleries on end with snapshots of my memories: concern and love (oftentimes clumsily dressed up as misplaced ‘help’), advice (it’s too late for the Raw Foods Diet, really, I already HAVE cancer, but thanks….), terror in an operating theatre and so much pain, especially the second time round when I knew what to expect from being sliced in the neck (I had thyroid cancer).

Somehow, though, I survived. I lost my singing voice – that was terrible. But I’m living and breathing today and I’m deeply grateful to the skilled surgeon who was able to save much of my laryngeal nerve from total destruction. I got a reprieve instead of the expected death sentence. One October afternoon, I emerged from a consulting room with a come-back-in-six-months for a check-up on my appointment card. And my father in tears, leaning against a hospital wall crying that he thought he was going to lose me.

Having cancer taught me that not every disaster is a death sentence – and that adversity need NEVER … NEVER… be the final word on where you’re headed. I have been in the valley of the shadow of death, and its terrifying fangs could only nip at me, and not shred what was most important. I am not so quick to open my mouth now with quick counsel when people confide their misery or pain to me. I know the value of sitting in the dust and mourning. And I have witnessed firsthand how treasures found in the darkness glitter resplendently in the light of a new day.

And I am so grateful.