Lent Challenge – Love
What is love? Why do we love? How do we love? How do we know we are loved? Why do we withhold love?
Love is the emotion that makes us human, and to be human is to love. Whether it is the romantic love another person, or love of a situation or an object or concept, we all experience love. We often talk about love and it is a word that drops into everyday conversation and it is obvious that love is a constant thread that runs throughout our lives.
But what is it? How do we define this emotion that drives us, motivates us, energises us and even sometimes paralyses us?
We can describe the feelings we get when we fall in love with someone – that giddy feeling we get when we think about them, that stomach clenching joy when they look at us, that constant distraction at the forefront of our minds when we imagine them going about their day, the counting down of the hours and minutes until we know we are going to see them again – but does all that accurately describe the true depths of the soul binding love we have say for our children? The intense desire to protect them from all the hurts and pain of the world, the deep-seated need to see them succeed, the celebration of all their achievements no matter how small and so on.
Paul wrote about what love is when he wrote his letter to the people of Corinth (click here for the full text) and if all these go a little way to describe the feelings of love, how do we go about showing it? I love my husband – of course I do – but sometimes, there are things he does that make me not like him very much. I’m sure the same is true in reverse and there will be things that I do that he doesn’t like me for even though he loves me. But how do we show it to each other? For many couples, love is shown is thousands of small ways as well as in big sweeping gestures. Take this weekend for example. My husband fully understood my desire to play with the band at a competition in Blackpool and he very unselfishly stood aside to allow me the time and space to go to rehearsals in the run up, and he willingly accepted that the time we would normally have spent together over the weekend was not to be this time. Not only did he put my needs first, but he wanted me to succeed and was proud of me for what I achieved too. But there’s more to it than that because he didn’t make me feel like I had to make it up to him, or that I somehow owed him for the time apart. I am not indebted to him for having some time to do something I wanted to do, and he would never make me feel that I am.
So what about love in the wider sense? What about love for our fellow human being? How does that work out?
Sadly, all too often, we fail to show that we love each other. We look for ways to score points against other people, or ways to cause division between them. There seems to be a constant desire to be in the right, and anyone not with us must therefore be against us. On any issue, there are lines drawn between people and love seems to take a backseat.
I find that troubling. If we take the premise that love is the most basic of human emotions and that every single human being on this planet is built to love and be loved, how can we go about our daily lives with our partners and families demonstrating love in myriad and wonderful small ways yet not show it to others on a bigger scale? If we can be generous to one special person, why do we find it so difficult to be generous to other people generally? I don’t mean generous in terms of giving money (to charity, to a homeless person on the street for example) but generous in terms of acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, understanding and so on? How can we celebrate love between some couples yet not others? How can we recognise long-term commitment and promises of lifelong love between some partnerships yet not others? How can we allow some people time to heal after a trauma (rape victims, abuse victims and so on) and look after “our own”, yet not allow other people room in our country after fleeing from war, famine, cruelty and violence?
Love shouldn’t come with a list of conditions, and it shouldn’t be withheld from people just because they are not “ours”, or because they don’t fit in with what we see as deserving of it.
When this world has passed, and when all the material goods in our lives have lost their meaning, when all we have held dear has been lost, what remains is love. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we could turn it round and put love for others first and foremost?
Love before judgement
Love before division
Love before fear
Love before indifference
Love before ignorance
Love before disrespect
Love before ego
I’m sure you could add a list of your own “love before….” words, and I am interested to hear your thoughts. Please leave me a comment below.