One of the most memorable “characters” in the wacky Disney Nutcracker (2018) is the Mouse King. For one thing, it is a technical marvel. MPC, the animation wizards, crafted hundreds of individual mice which they then combined into a oversized monster that could ooze around humans, robots and CGI scenery.
But the Mouse King is also memorable as a fascinating idea. When I was praying, the idea came to me as I sifted through lost and longed-for loves — my own loves and those my clients recount. I thought, “Love is like the Mouse King.”
We wish love were bigger
What I mean is, just like the wicked Mouse King is a conglomeration of many little mice, the big love we long for could be a collection of the little loves presently offered to us. The one with eyes to see, let them see.
As I prayed, I felt lonely and unloved. But I am not, objectively, alone or unloved, so I needed to see what those feelings were all about. They centered on my disappointment over people who were not responding to my attempts to connect and meaningful relationships I felt I had lost. I had a classic moment of eating the holes in the Swiss cheese. I ignored the “cheese” I had for the cheese I desired. You may have developed variations on this theme:
- I am not worthy of actual cheese so I make do with holes.
- I was deprived of cheese and only understand holes.
- I don’t need cheese and am strong enough to live in holes.
- I deserve good cheese and no one will give it to me.
Fill in the blank for yourself.
All this is to say, we are hungry for love, for the “cheese” in which we find so many holes, for the main sustenance our souls can’t live without. We usually wish we had more true love in us and coming to us. If only my love were bigger.
Could small loves add up?
Today I got to see a friend’s toddler on Zoom. He barely knew how to wave and wasn’t sure about all those faces, but he waved. Later on, he said in language only his father could understand, “I want more waving.” I said, “That’s worth the effort to get to this meeting!” It was a very little love to receive, but could little loves add up? Could we be more satisfied if we turned into them?
A 2022 movie adapted Sir Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001) for the screen. The film is a funny and sinister take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin story. In it, Pratchett creates another version of a rat king. This monster has a magical ability the draw non-sentient rats to itself. They pulse and bubble under his coat (above). Many little energies produce a potent villain.
I think the same can happen with love. Christians often note this when they bravely say their mustard seed of faith can move a mountain, “If we combine the individual gifts we have, we can change the world!” My small faith, hope and love are not too small to be valuable. In this vein, most Christmas cards should depict God, who is love, being born as a human baby. Amazing things came from that small being! Small loves add up to substantial impact.
I think it is a little easier to see how I am obligated to do the right thing by loving others, even if my love is small. It is harder to see and collect the small loves given by people loving me! (Did you add a bullet point above?). Nevertheless, I think these small-seeming loves combine to form enough love for me to live on. But I will need to have the eyes of my heart open so I can see them. They may seem so small they are invisible!
What’s more, these little loves, even when seen and welcomed, will have to find their way through all my defenses against the terrible feelings I fear connected to not getting enough love. I may have decided long before I had language to think about it, that my mother’s love was too small! I wish we could draw all these loves to us like a Rat King draws rats. But more than one acquaintance has said, “But that would be self-centered, wouldn’t it?” or “Wouldn’t I be taking someone else’s love?” Do you have a reason to stay unloved? Is it “big love or nothing” with you?
Make a list
Even though it seems like a daily battle, I keep trying to receive what I am given, even if I feel it is too small, even if I sometimes give into the temptation to think all I have is holes.
Why don’t you try collecting a bunch of small loves with me and see how you feel? See if they amount to more of what you need. Here’s what I piled up today from the last 24 hours or so:
- My friend’s child on screen felt like a small love to me. There were a lot of layers of love in those waves.
- My own amazing and devoted children are on my screensaver. I talked to one of those lovers yesterday.
- I looked at the painting my granddaughter made and we framed.
- My yoga app surprised me with a new soundtrack: birdsong.
- New friends invited us over for 70-hour brisket. I don’t know what that is but I already appreciate the effort.
- I discovered Baby Rose singing about her loves.
- Fort Lee was renamed and I take that as love.
- My friend of 40 years has a birthday today.
There were a LOT more bullets. I culled my list because I’m sure you get the idea. To NOT come up with a substantial list of your own will take some stubborn resistance on your part, and you may have that, like we all do. But we can overcome our resistance.
Even without God in the world, you’d have small loves all around you leading to the biggest love of all. It is a blessing the whole world shares. But God is born among us every day. Jesus is walking with us. God, who is love, is the one in whom we live and move and have our being. We’re gifted with love moment by moment.