Love is good. My friend (who happens to be the most loving person I know) told me once, “No one ever runs away from arms open wide. They run toward them.” This particular friend’s love has healed me on more than one occasion. This is my life’s journey—to be the most loving person I can become. I want to be an unconditional love that heals like that.
But, love is hard. It’s not what you thought it was going to be. You thought it was going to be like the movies. You thought it was going to be passionate. And romantic, always. You thought there would always be ardent desire. You didn’t know there would be morning breath. Or jeans left on the floor after you just picked up. Or dishes left in the sink, when they could have just as easily been stacked in the dishwasher.
You didn’t know there would be moments of indifference. Turns out, the movies were always tricking us. That wasn’t love. That was infatuation. Lust, perhaps. But, it wasn’t love.
Love is much more invested than you thought. It carries far more commitment than you realized. But, that’s how you know that love is real. That’s how you know it’s legit. When it does the hard things. The monotonous things. The mundane things when no one else is looking. When it apologizes for being a jerk, and seeks to change. Love is humble and bends down low to build another person up.
No one is born into the world knowing how to perfectly love. Love has to be taught. It has to be forged. And it’s a painful thing.
This morning, the kids woke up, and ran to get the construction paper and the chocolate candy and they busied themselves making each other Valentines. They were kind to each other, surprising one another with paper-heart gifts. And then they left the pink and red scraps all over the floor. They fought over the scissors. One moment, they were hugging with chocolate dripping down their lips. The next moment they were screaming at each other and kicking each other in the neck. Yeah.
So, I thought, “I’ll read them what I just read. I’ll read them what I woke up and reached out for the scriptures to pray for all of us.”
I got out Ephesians 4 and did my best. They ran away. I called them back and tried to make them stay. I just wanted to get a little bit of goodness into them.
I tell you now to live the way God’s people should live. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient and accept each other with love. You are joined together with peace through the Spirit. Do all you can to continue together in this way. Let peace hold you together. (from Ephesians 4:1-3)
I was like, “Guys! Let’s do this! Let’s let peace hold us all together!” They held up their Lego creations. I wondered how much they were listening.
And then later, after they had pelted each other because someone was being too bossy and someone else was climbing on the bed the wrong way, I spoke it desperately and gently into them,
“When you talk, do not say harmful things. But say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will help those who listen to you. And do not make the Holy Spirit sad. The Spirit is God’s proof that you belong to him…….Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil. Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” (From the end of Ephesians chapter 4)
“Gideon, did what you say make Hope grow stronger?”
“Then, let’s speak words that build her up.”
“Hopey, was what you said harmful and hurtful?”
“Then let’s be kind and loving to each other! Let’s forgive, because love forgives so that we can keep being held together with peace!”
I don’t know how much it helped, but we all have to start somewhere. Love is so hard to teach. It’s hard to instill. I mean, you can say a few words about what love is, but basically you just have to live it out, over and over and over again. All of life is training. So, we train ourselves how to love. All of us. We’re all in the same boat together.
We’ve only got this one life and so we don’t give up on ourselves or each other; we can’t think of a better life to live than a life of love.