patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Monday, March 19, 2012

ich liebe dich

Last night I was Facebook texting with my daughter Lulu, who’s away at college. We communicate mostly via texting nowadays, our relationship devolving into an exchange of quips, symbols, commands, and the briefest of news updates. Upcoming tests. Dinner plans. Arrival times. Did you floss?

Facebook is so stressful! An onslaught of pictures, news, that 55-year-old mom perpetually regressing into a 25-year-old, in-jokes between people I’m not connected with like that.

I’m not connected “like that” with most, since I accept whoever friends me. It seems unfriendly not to. In addition to my daughters and their friends, there are my own friends, friends of theirs, current and former students, their friends, even total strangers who’ve read my books and tracked me down. A nightmare of names and faces, as if I’m at a massive party where everyone knows everyone else, but I know no one.

Compounding the confusion, Lulu and I text in German, so she can practice. Though my German is rusty and hers still developing, we lapse into English only for emergencies.

Last night our conversation went like this:
Hallo Loopers. Wie gehts?
Gut. Du?
OK. Wir haben gerade The Descendants gesehen. Es war gut. Jetzt gehen wir ins Bett.
OK. Ich liebe dich. Gute Nacht.
Ooooooooooops....Come back!!! I just now posted Ich liebe dich and a heart on a former student's wall!
Hahaha. No worries tho. You can delete it.
How???????? Tell me quick. People’ll think I'm in love with her or something.
By the time I figured it out, it was too late. The former student had already responded, in the ambiguous way of former students, with a smiley face.

In bed, I reflected on how few people I exchange the word love with. My husband. Charlotte. Lulu. A few siblings. My dad. Never with even my closest friends.

Not so Jesus, it occurred to me. He uses it, repeatedly, in a conversation with his buddy Peter.

“Do you love me…?” he asks. Three times.

Peter responds—hurt, we’re told—“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!”

It was so hard for me to get there, to the intimacy of this relationship between two friends. It could be a cultural difference—like how my male students in China used to walk around completely intwined in one another's arms. Or maybe that business of there being three Greek words for love. But I suspected that wasn't it.

Kris lay half-reading, half-dosing beside me.

"Could you ask a friend if he loved you, like Jesus did?" I asked him. "Like, could you use that word? Could you say it to anybody besides me or the girls?"

"My mom, I guess," he said after a while. His voice sounded wobbly and remote, the way it does just before he falls asleep.

So, having, as usual, not gotten to the bottom of this scriptural mystery, I clicked off my bedside light and then reached over him to click off his, and we hugged each other to sleep.