When I was around the age of six, my good friend Max moved away. I had known him for fewer than two years, but I was so fond of him that his moving away really hurt. I was living in Northern Virginia and he was moving to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh might as well have been in another country. I knew it was far and that was the end of this relationship. I woke up in the middle of the night after he had left that day, crying and yelling. My mother’s arms tried to comfort me as well as they could. But this was real pain, even for a six-year-old. It was love.
The First Letter of St. John states, “Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us.” I do not want to make too bold a statement or reduce John’s words to simple sentiment, but I think the love I felt that night when I was six was pretty close to the perfected love mentioned in the passage. A child, so innocent and still untouched by the cynicism and apathy of an adult world, experienced something so deep and hard to understand that I am certain my mother classified it as immature emotions that would quickly fade away. As adults, we think that all the time. Yet forty years later, I still vividly remember it. I cannot remember Max’s last name or visualize his face, but I can still recall the feelings and emotions of that event.
What if we tried harder to take John’s words to heart and love more people as a child loves a true friend? John tells us that in that love God is present. That night when I was six I may have lost a friend, but I think I found God.