I recently watched the Netflix film Tick, Tick… BOOM!, which captures the early career of the legendary musical playwright Jonathan Larson, who wrote the blockbuster Rent (which happens to be one of my favorite musicals of all time). I was moved to tears by his life story, a life cut tragically short at 35 due to an aortic aneurysm. While overcoming adversity in his pursuit of his call as a playwright, Larson realizes that his real-life experiences in New York City during the height of the AIDS epidemic served as his greatest muse.
The experience of shared loss and heartache amid a pandemic can also serve as our muse to see our shared humanity more clearly and affirm human dignity more fiercely. The film inspired me to rediscover the Rent soundtrack and fall in love again with one my favorite songs “Seasons of Love,” which includes the refrain “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear, Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, How do you measure? Measure a year? How about in love?”
The musical’s call to measure time through the lens of love echoes the words of Jesus, who made it plain that the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). In a similar fashion, the apostle Paul offers his treatise on the centrality of love while writing to a deeply divided church in Corinth, saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). My greatest prayer for myself and for you in 2022 is that we measure our lives in love.
While this prayer may sound overly sentimental in the face of great peril and challenge, love has the power to cast out fear and undergirds the very pursuit of justice and peace. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
In 2022, I pray that passing federal voting rights legislation will demonstrate our love for our democracy. I pray that accomplishing the Build Back Better agenda will reflect our love for protecting the most vulnerable and help enable all children, families, and communities to thrive. I pray that by living out a deeper commitment to anti-racism we will show our love for the imago dei in each person. I pray that co-creating a carbon-free future will signal our love for creation and safeguarding the dreams of future generations. I pray that combatting an alarming increase in COVID-19 infections through vaccinations, mask wearing, and compassionate supports will reflect our love for our neighbor and the common good. I pray that these and other commitments of love will become part and parcel to our Christian discipleship.
Yes, let’s measure the next year in love. Let us sojourn in a love that implements the demands of justice and corrects everything that stands against love.