Great Love Is Softened and Worn

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 3:00 pm

Great Love Is Softened and Worn

Years ago I bought a pair of jeans. They fit my body so perfectly. These jeans have come with me everywhere. They are to my lower body what my mom’s comfort food is to my soul.

Over the years, these jeans have worn out. I have fixed the hem on them, as it kept dragging on the ground. Some parts got so thin that I had to mend them. But they are so lovely and comfy that I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out in favor of a new pair of jeans.

I have newer pairs of jeans that are more stylish, nicer looking. But nothing is more comfortable, more familiar, more comforting.

I have a shoulder bag, a beautiful leather bag, light brown in color. I bought it almost 20 years ago. I was a graduate student then, on a tight budget. This was at a going-out-of-business sale in a leather shop. It was $49. That was a lot of money to me then (and now). But it was lovely, and I thought I would use it everyday. I stared at it for ten minutes, then took the plunge and bought it. Few purchases have brought me more joy, more use.

I have taken this comfy bag with me around the world: Turkey, Morocco, Switzerland, England, France, Canada. Every lecture, every conference, my brown leather bag keeps me company. It is a comfortable travel companion. In it: my laptop, passport, some gum, a book or two.

With the years, the old leather has worn out more. As it wears out, it gets softer. It is comforting to touch everywhere. It’s almost like suede now. Some parts are darker, more worn out, but the darker parts add a lovely character to the bag.

I get so many compliments on it. People keep asking me where they can get one like it. I keep telling them: not where, when. It takes years to get a bag like this. You get a bag like this 20 years ago.

I have a pair of shoes, a comfortable pair of shoes. I bought them more than ten years ago. Over time, they have conformed to my feet. I have worn them on every trail, every pilgrimage, every spiritual tour I lead. The straps wore off, and the laces fell off. I had them fixed, because there is no pair of shoes I have that are as comfortable.

My love, this is what I pray for you and I to be to each other.

For you, my sweet love, I’d love to be your comfy old jeans. I’ve love to grow old with you, for you to grow comfy with me. I’d love to wear down together, mend each other, and conform to each other’s rough edges.

For you, my beloved, I’d love to be those comfy shoes, so that we may walk on life’s path together.

May your hands be like that leather bag, growing softer and more comfortable as I hold them, through life. May the wrinkles on our faces be a tribute to the sweet memories we will have made together, hand in hand.

There will be shinier, newer, more crisp companions out there. But you, my beloved for all eternities, are the faithful companion. Our souls have conformed to each other, our hearts have softened together, our bodies comfort one another.

For the rest of this journey that we have ahead — and all the journeys beyond — let us keep traveling together, growing softer.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads educational tours every year to Turkey, Morocco, or other countries, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trips are open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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  • Amor Fati

    What a lovely tribute to the love of your life! Your testimony brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me where my beloved and I are on this life’s journey. Next year will be our 50th wedding anniversary. Will my beloved know the meaning of the day? It does not matter. I am the keeper of memories now. What matters is our love, comfortable like an old shoe. Memories are kept in the heart now. When we are sitting hand in hand, like we have done all our married life, our hands remember the touch. What did the Beatles say? Love is all there is. Love is all there is.

  • Katharine

    This evoked the lovely story of The Velveteen Rabbit. Thank you, Omid. On this Winter Solstice morn, you are a ray of sweet light-ness.

  • Gabby

    What a beautiful tribute.