Today began in Serbia—in Sremska Mitrovica. Last Sunday was Jos, Nigeria. In between were a couple of days at home in Camas. So my body—my sleep cycle—is confused. Call it a game of perpetual catch-up!
But what about the soul? What offers stability, no matter what I happen to eat and where I get to sleep? Chicken for meals is a standard but a host of spices and sauces can make an adventure of every chicken I meet. So it’s not the food that makes for security. Nor the bed where my head rests. Something more profound is needed.
What we all need is a place where the heart can rest. And that’s a gift best offered by good companions. Both in our receiving care from them and in sharing our care in turn. It may be a gift from traveling companions or from the companions at a destination. The broad word for this care is “love”—we need to love and to be loved.
But we often struggle with the language of love. Is love an emotion? Or is it more objective: a determination to do good things for others?
Certainly it’s more than this either-or opposition. If, on the one hand, if we call love a determination to offer benefits, we’re only looking at behaviors. At something a good hotel can offer. A smile. A request to see my passport and my credit card. Then a room key with a brief word—“Take the elevator, in the next hall to the right.” So I have an empty room with a bed, a bath, a television and the Internet—all offered for a price.
Yet the language of love can also be clumsy. To call love an emotion—a nice sentiment—hardly hits the mark. Someone can say, “I sure love you!” but it doesn’t mean much if that person also “loves” a car, or a pastry, or a photo, or a dog with the same sort of mundane enthusiasm.
Love is more than this. It’s the heart of companion who wants to share worlds—who refuses to be isolated from my heart. A companion takes me away from the island of indifference the airplane represents. I know I’m loved when I’m met with a broad smile at the airport exit and flooded with questions that tell me our last conversation from many months ago is still remembered.
Love is the rich tapestry of thoughts in which the voices build each other up to be stronger and more noble. Where insights and honor are shared with truth, tears, and laughter. Love has emotions—of course—but love also stirs objective actions. The bed, bath, and benefits of a home all feature the personality of the homemaker. The questions—“Can I bring you another blanket? Would you like something to drink?”—all speak of a desire to please.
So companionship breathes the atmosphere of mutual care. Companions give each other the space to be different as well as the joy and security of shared values.
And this is where Christian faith has so much to offer to profound companionship. In knowing Jesus each partner in a friendship is oriented to one whose life is ultimately other-centered. Jesus counts others more important than himself. He came to serve rather than to be served. Yet his heart also invites his followers to come and explore his care. He invites curiosity. His goodness is unending. And he wants us to know more about his family—about his Father.
And that brings me to the joy of my work as a global traveler. I have opportunities to be with those I love and who love me in turn. Not so much because I’m lovely or they’re lovely, but because we share a devotion to the God who loves us all. His love then spills through us to each other.
I know this can sound like a bit of pie-in-the-sky. But I promise you, as I travel I’m secure and satisfied. My unique role in life is to care for those who are caring for others. And when I get to visit them I find consistency. Global workers who are good at loving others are also good at loving their guests. And my role is to offer a little bit of care in return.
It all works because we find our ultimate companionship in one whose spreading goodness is steady and unconditional. His love is constant. And that keeps us going.
Tomorrow I’ll be in Seville, Spain, with another group of Christian companions. Thank God for his love that started it all!