WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Love in the Complicated Places

By Jo VonRue

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."
—Zora Neale Hurston

As a child I didn’t always have access to the basic necessities for thriving. We often didn’t have food to eat; at times, we were homeless. As you can imagine, I sometimes showed up to school wearing dirty clothing and smelling unpleasant. I was the brunt of jokes, the target of bullying, and generally kept my head down trying to get through each day.

A child sits at a desk, reading, while in the background a teacher observes her.

I was not very good at school. Because of my ineptitude for learning, most of my teachers didn’t pay much attention to me, especially because I was my mother’s daughter (most of my teachers had her as a struggling student, too). I knew myself to be a frustration for most of my teachers–at least that’s how they made me feel—who seemed to avoid me as much as possible.

My 5th grade teacher was called Mrs. Fong. She was a formidable woman who did not tolerate any shenanigans. Though she was never unkind towards me, I was terrified of her.

One day after class, Mrs. Fong pulled me aside and said, “Do you know what deodorant is? It’s time for you to start wearing some.” I was absolutely mortified that a teacher had to tell me to wear deodorant.

But when I was recently asked about a time when someone stuck their neck out for me, Mrs. Fong was the first person I thought of. It’s funny how perspective changes over time: something that once seemed mortifying now strikes me as a gesture of caring; of love.

Love shows up in soft, easy comfortable places: a new baby in the delivery room; a meal train when you’re ill; a hug, or the sweet smile of a stranger.

But here’s the thing: love shows up everywhere.

We don’t always recognize it, but love shows up even more in the messy, vulnerable places. Love shows up in the form of a friend seeking forgiveness. Love shows up every time we interrupt bad oppressive comments and jokes. Love shows up in complicated conversations—and for me, love showed up in the simplicity of a teacher awkwardly reminding me about deodorant.


Spirit of life and love, help us to open our souls so that we may recognize where your spirit exists in our lives—especially the messy, complicated places where it’s harder to find.