A few months ago while waiting in line at the grocery store I happened to pick up a random tabloid and began flipping through it. Normally I shun such magazines, even turn them over so the back cover faces out so no unsuspecting girl, mother, grandmother, sister, or friend has to be subjected to the non-realities of such imaginary worlds that are portrayed in these magazines. But anyway, on this day, my mind must have been spent from the demands of lines, to-do lists, expectations and responsibilities, so I picked up a magazine.
In it was a story on the life of a celebrity now dead who was being eulogized by friends and colleagues. It was then that the statement struck me…..
“She had an amazing capacity for love and friendship, a capacity greater than anyone I have ever met.”
I thought that of all the people who will assess my life and my earthly impact, which often only happens once we feel the sense of the loss of a person’s impact in our lives, I want this to be said of me.
I began to pray that Gd would show me how to make such an eternal impact on the people he brings to my life that they would say this of me. I begged Gd, “Please, please, show me how to have an amazing capacity for love and friendship.” If the floor wouldn’t have been a germy grocery store floor, I would have fallen to my knees in that kind of begging prayer where you give anything just to simply touch the hem of the robe of Gd.
I have not been a lover. I have rarely loved in that kind of love that truly exemplifies a purity in love, void of any selfish ambition or intent and that does not give love in the hope of love given in return.
I have been hurt. And I have lived life as someone who has been hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Hurt people live a life constantly gauging those who may cause them hurt. Hurt people live constantly rejecting before people reject them.
The greatest commandment is that we love the Lord our Gd with ALL our heart, with all our mind, and with ALL our strength. Then, we are to love our neighbors. But what does that all mean?
Love is much more than positive feelings and concern; it is much more than the desire to help, to matter, to change things. These feelings and desires do not accomplish love. Love has direction, movement and purpose. This is a quote from the book Loving People, probably the book that has most helped me to apply Gd’s word to my life in the last year.
I heard renowned Bible teacher Joyce Meyer recently tell about a book she wrote called Love Out Loud. In her assessment, the book is one of the most powerful she has ever written, yet it has sold a pitiful amount of copies. I agree with her statement that love is the single greatest attribute lacking in humanity at this very moment in history. Sure, there are epidemics of fear, unbelief, selfishness, pride, self-hatred, insecurity, greed and lust in the world, but love covers all of it.
Love’s most basic definition is “seeking and doing the best for another.” When we love someone, when we love anyone who steps into our path for even a moment, we then bend our heart, mind and energies toward the betterment of someone else. Love combines the emotional connection to someone with the act of doing something to show love for the person. It is both connection and intimacy and action.
I think this definition of love is what the world misconstrues as a part of its “doormat” philosophy, the philosophy that “I will not be used, I will not become a doormat, I will not let my needs and wants go unnoticed.” This philosophy says that once we feel our rights have been violated, we have a right to be hurt and angry and to react out of those emotions. Unlovable people require that we set boundaries in order to guard ourselves from harm, but love still goes beyond mere toleration of unlovable people and continues to seek and do the best for another.
Love has nothing to do with me. In the midst of truly loving, my sense of self shrinks and I seek what is best for another.
We think of love as a feeling, and while love is not completely devoid of warm and tender emotions, this means there will still be a great depth of feeling involved in love even if we are involved in a bitter conflict with a person we love. The irony in love is that while there is a close feeling and a sense of intimacy that is the effect of love (not the cause), when you love someone the right way, by seeking and doing the best for another, it may have the opposite effect from closeness. It may not be comfortable, it may be painful and may be heartbreaking. But love does not shut itself down when it “feels” something apart from intimacy and closeness. Love does not divorce when it “feels” something outside of intimacy and wonderment. Love does not end a friendship when it feels hurt. Love does the hard things to confront and mend what is broken. Love sometimes feels the opposite of intimate connection, sometimes it feels disconnected and jagged, but love continues to seek and do the best for another.
Love loves the unlovable. In Loving People, I found the most profound statement I have read in a long time, “The more we require that the other person be lovable in order for us to care, the less loving we are. “ Therefore, the less we require of the person to be lovable, the more loving we are.
In my own life I concluded that for Gd to take me to greater heights in love and service and life experience, I would need to grow in maturity in love. Love does not bless others simply to receive a blessing. Love does not give so that something can be taken in return.
Many of the people we are called to love will require that we work hard to love them, and I am convinced that love is not normal human behavior, which defaults to the mentality that I will only love if you will love and I will only be nice to you if you are nice to me. Love continues seeking and doing the best for another even when it feels rejected. Love is not normal. But unlovable people need to be sought, not just tolerated. Gd sought to enter our hearts for eternity even while we were rejecting and shouting curses at him in our souls.
While it is normal after an unintentional hurt to hear, “I now no longer consider us family,” or “This is the end, have a nice life,” or “I don’t love you anymore,” love continues seeking and doing what is best for the person. My journey to love really began with a book by Lisa Whelchel called Friendship for Grownups, all about her struggle to establish intimate, meaningful sisterhood-like friendships that allows us to be seen in all our glory, for better or worse, the good, the bad, and the ugly and still be embraced. After reading this I began doing some research on friendships, and what I found was amazingly revelatory to me. Depth of friendship is a rarity, lack of it is an epidemic, and when it does happen, it often leaves women, and men, with such an abyss of pain that only Gd can reach it. I would be lacking in transparency if I claimed to be excluded from this. I would love to leave you with the impression that I have lived above the overcast valley of despair and wounding by a friend. But I have perhaps caused another to fall into the valley as well, both of us dwelling in the same valley, a million miles apart. This leaves so many so petrified of connection.
We may be unfathomably pained. We may be betrayed. We may be exposed.
We may find an opportunity to love beyond anything we ever thought could exist in our sinful hearts. We may find we are loved.
I would also be lacking in transparency if I denied that I am weeping while I write this at the very thought of all the pain, all the heartbreak, at all the little pieces my heart has broken into. All the pain that goes uncovered by love has brought me to such a place of heartache.
Ultimately, our love should lead both the unlovable and the lovable to a greater love for our Creator Gd and our Savior Jesus. And another irony in love is that giving true, actual love, to the point of exhaustion, does not constrain us to human limitations, it does not drain us of energy for life. Love increases as you give it. Any love that makes us feel drained or burned out is not love. It may be co-dependent, or self-seeking or lustful.
I recently encountered in a very new friend a love and intimacy connection that came to me completely void of selfishness. The blessing that came to me is unexplainable.
The connection that came to me yesterday began with a simple, “How was your week?” To give you a prelude, I have innumerable friends that Gd has blessed me with undeservedly (a true blessing) yet recently I began to feel a deep sense of a lack of intimacy. Do I truly experience the joy in really knowing someone? Does anybody really know me? Lives go in different directions, events happen, dishes must be done, babies must be rocked, grocery shopping must happen, and in the midst of this, do we really know about the lives of the people we call friends.
Until yesterday, I felt a yearning for someone to ask, “How was your week?” or “How was your day?” or “How can I pray for you.” Perhaps loving someone in friendship means that we become acquainted with how someone lives their life. We become acquainted with who they are in their homes, with their children, with their laundry, with their dirty dishes, with their everydayness, with their messiness, with their little successes, with their goals, their hopes, their dreams. I pray that like the blessing that came to my friend through my transparency via a phone line, that I can further give a blessing through my transparency.
I recently read a story by Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience about a friendship lost, a friendship that had previously spanned time, history and geography. Just days before this I received a phone call from a friend confiding in me about the heartache of a friendship lost, a friendship she believes has had eternal significance in her life. I wept again.
Like Ann, I pray to be “a friend that curves her heart into this safe cup for all words and feelings to spill, the good and the grit…all mixed up.”
I pray that for you too. I pray our lives can be an outflowing of love that cannot be quenched.
I have been an unlovable person, yet I have been shown the completely selfless love of Jesus that has sought the best for me. This has come in friendships and in the love from my husband. And I am blessed by such love. We love others in going from the unlovable to the lovable, then to a loving person.