Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love, off the record

The world won't bend enough
For you to see that love
Is worth all the trouble . . .

So sings Leigh Nash in the song "Blue." I wrote those lyrics on the wall weeks ago (not directly, I wasn't vandalizing, don't worry) because the song was running through my head, the lyrics seeming perfect for things that I was thinking about.

It only hit me today that the one who really needed to hear that, the one who really needed to change some things, was me. I was the one, despite all my talk about how important it is to live in love, who had a subconscious list in my head of things love wasn't worth. I'd like to negate it now, in writing.

Love is worth waiting patiently and peacefully for God's plans in my life to come to pass, without being angry with Him or other people about what hasn't happened yet, and without being jealous of people who seem to be "ahead" of me.

Love is worth trust. Love is worth being vulnerable to hurt and disappointment. Love is worth being humble enough to let other people's actions have an effect on my feelings, humble enough to let them see that effect (when appropriate).

Love is worth laying down pride and selfishness by loving someone even if I don't know how they'll respond, even if I don't think I'm going to get anything back.

Love is worth taking the harder path when the easier is so obvious. Love is worth being honest with someone when I think they're going down the wrong path. Love is worth biting my tongue when I want to say something that would not be for the edification of the moment, that would not be true and loving.

Love is worth leaving my baggage behind and not judging every new thing by that one thing in my past that went badly. Love is worth believing the best about other people that I can.

If I love God, then I should trust Him. If I love Him, I should obey Him. If I obey Him, it means loving other people. If I trust Him, it means I can put loving other people over protecting and defending myself. If I realize that He loves me, I can be secure enough in that not to be so insecure about how people see me that it clouds my judgment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Love, Strictly Speaking

One night a few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about what our mission in life was, trying to reduce it to a simple phrase of two or three words. The only thing I could think of seemed to me incredibly vague, but neither my friend nor another person or two I talked to about it thought so. Perhaps I only think it's too vague because I, as do most human beings, am committing the error of supposing that other human beings think about things the way I do. Perhaps the phrase I thought of is actually a good definition of my life's mission:

Spread love!

However, the only way I can say in good conscience that that statement is not vague is to define it further. Before I try to define love, though, I want to make my argument for why everything that everyone--especially every one of those who say they are Christians--does should be done in love.

Why do I say that? I say that because, as the song "Jesus Loves Me" states, "the Bible tells me so." 1 Corinthians 16:14 reads, "Let all that you do be done in love." Galatians 5:13-14 says that we "were called to freedom . . . only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" And 1 John 4:7-8 tells us "let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." As if all the verses in the Epistles were not enough, in the Gospels (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31) we find Jesus Himself clearly stating that the greatest commandment and second greatest commandment are those which say that we should love God and love our neighbor.

As a disclaimer, I'm not trying to say that everyone should think their main mission in life is to spread love. I just want to make the point that, regardless of whether you would want to encapsulate your whole life into a phrase that uses the word love, the idea of love is central to the Christian life.

The question remains, what exactly is love? The question is more confusing than it might sound. For my attempt at an extended definition of love, I'm not going to go to a dictionary, and I'm not going to talk about feelings (not that feelings aren't great, but if I'm talking about my life's mission, I want a practical set of guidelines of what this means I should be doing). And yes, I know it's been used a gazillion times before, but I'm going to go to 1 Corinthians 13. Sometimes there's a reason that the same passage gets quoted over and over again on a certain subject.

Here's a list of things that love is described as being and doing: patient, kind, not jealous, not bragging or arrogant, not acting unbecomingly, not seeking its own, not provoked, not taking into account wrongs suffered, not rejoicing in unrighteousness but rejoicing in the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things.

Here are my personal reactions to a few of these (maybe in another post I'll go into more). Patient? Oh, my, I fail at that one. Not in the sense of waiting an afternoon or a day or a week to hear back from someone or go somewhere or get something. But if you want me to wait indefinitely on something I really really want? Ouch. Not jealous? OK, I'm getting better on that one than I used to be. But show me someone, especially someone close to me, who already has something that I hope to have someday (or want but don't know if I'll ever have) and I will show you at least some level of jealousy going on inside of me. Not seeking its own or taking into account wrongs suffered? Hmm. That sounds superhuman. Or at least countercultural. Bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things . . . I don't even know how to start applying those. It sounds like the characterization of a very patient and persevering person. Someone determined to see the best in everyone and encourage it. Someone who's willing to put up with a lot.

Getting discouraged? So am I. Therefore, I'll close with a mention of Someone else's love for us:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

PS Obviously, this is by no means exhaustive, even of what I personally could say on the subject of love. I hope to write more later.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Night has always seemed to me an excellent time for reflection, for quietness, for solitude. I've always been fascinated by the feeling of night. I used to lie awake in bed when I ought to have been sleeping, with a very still body and a very active brain. Imagining out stories, music, poetry, etc. I suppose you could say I thought it was a good time to be creative!

As I got older and the more unpleasant parts of life became more of a reality to me--and as I turned into a moody teenager--the night changed, or rather my relationship to it. Lying awake at night became something quite different; staring at the moonlight on my wall, trying to face or forget or accept what I could neither change nor control, quietly overwhelmed by things that were too much for me, or at least too much to let me sleep normally during those nights.

By the grace of God, that phase did not last forever. And, as I've gotten older still, while night has kept its capacity for beauty and creativity without relinquishing its ability to sometimes be the time when thoughts that I keep at bay during the day come to the surface against my will, I have discovered that it has yet a third face in my life as a time to be social, either in late-night girl-talks or in hanging out with a larger group for fun.

However, I still think that primarily night is for memories, reflections, and quiet indulgences in feelings that don't need to be spoken aloud. Oddly, it was not a night but a memory of a night that sparked the desire to write about night--one night over the summer, walking around a city after dark with a friend while she took pictures, we talked, and the atmosphere was one of goodbyes. It was a beautiful night, one of many memories from a summer that I hope to remember forever.