Day 4: Love is hard

No, that’s not part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, but as much as I know that love is good, I know without doubt that it is hard.

I couldn’t work out what to write today – it’s late Friday night here in Australia, and I’m very tired after a particularly trying day at work, and a few days of dealing with a child’s trying behaviour (which is nothing unusual around here).  Both situations have required conscious acts of love, the kind that don’t fit the warm, fuzzy version, rather the ‘this takes a lot of me and is really hard’ version.  Patience.  Laying down pride.  Turning away from anger.  Speaking truth, with kindness.  I’m feeling a bit raw around the edges as a result.

That the last few days have been rather challenging is no surprise to me – writing about a particular topic involves rather a lot of time thinking about it, and I’m finding that I’m constantly measuring my thoughts and actions against Paul’s words describing love.  As a result, I’m feeling pretty vulnerable, which is not an unfamiliar state of being for me, but one that I’m still not ‘at home’ in.  I’m learning more and more about vulnerability, why it is so important in our culture and why we need to embrace it – why I need to embrace it.

I found this quote tonight, one I’ve come across before and is particularly relevant right now, to this series.  To truly know love, we need to be vulnerable – the alternative is to be hard-hearted and unfeeling, and love cannot live in a place like that. Take these words with you into your weekend and ask yourself (as I will be), what are you wrapping carefully around your heart?   What is your casket or coffin, your I-can’t-be-hurt-here safe place?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  – C. S. Lewis

Day 3: Love is a good thing.

Today I had planned to start writing about and discussing the tangibles of love as Paul writes them, the first of which is patience.

But this morning, I woke up with a hangover of regret.  And too much sugar.  Regret from my less-than-stellar parenting efforts last night, and sugar from my coping mechanism of choice, resulting from said parenting actions (and yes, I know, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to link the two).  In the early hours of the morning, while I tried to focus in the fog that seemed to envelop my thoughts, I felt like I was the last person qualified to talk about patience, and patience in the context of love.

So I didn’t.  I will, but not today, not until I let that piece of scripture further marinate and form the words that I know God has for me.

Love is patient.  God is patient.

I’m not.  Not by nature, anyway.

Fortunately for me, and everyone around me, God reassures us that His love is enough, He is enough, and when we lose it, when we don’t have it altogether, He is only made bigger.  And I can always do with a big God.

I love music.  Love it to the point that I wonder if I could truly live without it.  A few years ago I came across a song by Andrew Peterson that spoke words into my heart when I was ready to hear them.  It was the song that kept coming to me today as I thought about how I’d behaved with my kids last night, when I had no reserves to draw on with my youngest son and his behaviour issues, when there was zero patience in sight.  I’m still learning about the wonder, the nitty-gritty of love, but I do know one thing – it is infinitely good.

Enjoy.

It knocked me down, it dragged me out, it left me there for dead.
It took all the freedom I wanted and gave me something else instead.
It blew my mind, it bled me dry, it hit me like a long goodbye,
And nobody here knows better than I that it’s a good thing.

Love is a good thing.
It’ll fall like rain on your parade,
Laugh at the plans that you tried to make,
It’ll wear you down till your heart just breaks
And it’s a good thing.
Love is a good thing.

It’ll wake you up in the middle of the night, it’ll take just a little too much.
It’ll burn you like a cinder till you’re tender to the touch.
It’ll chase you down, and swallow you whole, it’ll make your blood run hot and cold.
Like a thief in the night it’ll steal your soul, and that’s a good thing.
Love is a good thing.

It’ll follow you down to the ruin of your great divide,
Open the wounds that you tried to hide.
And there in the rubble of the heart that died
You’ll find a good thing.
Cause love is a good thing.
Oh love is a good thing.

Ooo, take cover,
Ooo, the end is near.
Ooo, take cover,
But do not fear,
Do not fear.

Cause it’ll break your will, it’ll change your mind,
Loose all the chains of the ties that bind.
If you’re lucky you’ll never make it out alive, and that’s a good thing.
Love is a good thing.

It can hurt like a blast from a hand grenade
When all that used to matter is blown away.
There in the middle of the mess it made you’ll find a good thing.
Yes, it’s worth every penny of the price you pay. It’s a good thing.

Day 2: Without love, what do we have?

Paul kicks off 1 Corinthians 13 with a pretty heavy-duty statement – we can do anything we like, we can even do it with great power and do ‘big’ things, but if we do them without love, it is completely and utterly worthless.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Bankruptwithoutlove

via dribble.com

I don’t think there’s any mistaking what Paul is telling us – life without love = nothing.  Pretty simple concept, really, as in if we live life that’s missing a vital ingredient, we’re not really living.  But it becomes not-so-simple when we start to look at what that vital ingredient really is.

Love.

A little word that means so much more than we really, truly understand.  Our concepts and understanding of love are shaped by our life, by our lived experiences, and that’s different for everyone. Fortunately for us, God didn’t just give Paul words to tell us the truth of living a life without love, but goes on to explain what love really is.  We’re not left hanging with the thought ‘ok, so to truly live, I need to do everything I do with love, but what does that actually mean?  What does that actually look like on a daily basis?’

And there, my friends, lies the ‘meat’ of this verse, the get-down-and-dirty, dig in deep, step-out- of-out- comfort-zones reality of God’s words.  The truth is found in a few short verses, but they’re words that hold the key to life.  So over the next few weeks, we’ll sit here and work out this instruction manual for life, the ultimate renovation guide, that most certainly isn’t a DIY project.

As we venture into what can be challenging, unfamiliar territory, I would really encourage you to start journaling your way through this process – whether it’s in a written journal, here in the comments, on your own blog, wherever – my experience has been that learning about true love is a game-changer, and writing has been my way of making sense of it all.

I’m still trying to make sense of it all.  Every. Single. Day.