Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings on Love

"No one has greater love than this– that one lays down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

There was a period in my life when I was obsessed with the idea of love.  As a freshman in college, I read every book I could get my hands on that dealt with the topic.  When I would meet and visit with married couples, I typically asked how they knew they had found the person they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with.  Answers varied.  One response, in particular, stuck with me.  "If you're not ready to give up your life for someone else," this woman said, "you're not ready to get married."  "That's a little drastic..." I thought to myself.
As an education major at Central College, I heard countless stories of young ladies who were taken to a particular bench at a nearby park to have a DTR (Defining the Relationship) talk with what would be their future spouse.  I listened to each tale with awestruck wonder, yearning to be that girl.  When my junior and senior years rolled around, it felt like I had a wedding to attend every other weekend.  Lavish and sacred events, I sometimes envied the couples exchanging vows before me.  They were so in love.  

I had no desire to get married at that point, but I did want someone I could stroll through our little town of Pella, Iowa, with, arm in arm, gazing up at him with lovestruck eyes.   I filled journal upon journal with entries about how he looked at me that particular day, or caressed my hand or said something special. (The he would be someone different, in my imagination, with each changing season.)  I would cling to each him loyally with tunnel vision thinking that he was the one.

If I could have a conversation with my younger self, I would say, "I know you are confused about what love is, but it is not what I believe you think it is."
I have matured much since being in my early twenties.  Recent events in my life have caused me to pause and reflect on what real love looks like, timeless snapshots kept in the camera of my heart:

Love is...

Walking in the ocean with one of my best friends in high school, mostly covered up because I was so self-conscious about my skin.  I told him this, and he gently put his hand on my leg, looked at me, and said, "You're beautiful."  Not in a selfish or sexual way, but in a way that said, "You are my friend and I love you."

A father forgiving his daughter though she has repeatedly broken his heart.

My lifelong family friend who took me shopping for school supplies and clothing at the beginning of each academic year, expecting nothing in return.  I lived for the living room fashion shows I put on for my family afterwards, wearing the latest Kmart and Payless trends.

A mother waking up before the sun rises to pray for her estranged daughter.

My husband filling my Ozark cup with ice water for the evening and setting it by my bedside every night.

Me, choosing to stay at home with my children, and continually wiping their butts, wiping away their tears, teaching and instructing them "in the way they should go."

Friends that will stop what they're doing to help in your time of need.
There are many things that our world, and especially our society, say that love is.  As for me, I say that Jesus, the woman I quoted at the beginning of this post, and Shakespeare, in some of his writings, got it right.  I will leave you with my favorite Sonnet:

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved." 

-Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Now, what do you say love is?