Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Love Like A Human


I spend an unusual amount of time thinking about love. Or, at least, more time than I used to. What does love look like? How does it act? Does it somehow achieve a balance of justice and mercy, or does it automatically fall on the side of grace?

What exactly is love? And how can I get better at it?

There were years I took love for granted. While I would have said it was a fundamental part of my life, I assumed its presence and kept on living. I’m a nice person. I love people.
Not until I fully recognized my God-given birthright (love Him, love my neighbor as myself) did love become a tangible thing. I knew I was not fulfilling my job, but in order to fix things, I needed to make up for lost time. I wanted to. I needed more love, in and through and pouring out from my life.

You know what happened next, how we sold things and moved places and surrounded ourselves with neighbors who can't help but respond to love. You know I'm being changed by their love.

You may have also gathered that I remained a bit lost in my mission. I routinely believe I’m missing the mark.

Yesterday my hunch was proven, but I need to back up.

Saturday found me at what was easily my personal, recent worst. What began as a stellar slash of white space across my overly-inked calendar spiraled without warning.

I had hatched a plan, and it just wasn't working. Aside from the general failure of my plan, there were other humans involved, and they were behaving badly. 

I stomped my mile-and-a-half around the pond at break-neck speed. I was fuming. Appalled. I felt so sorry for myself. I wanted justice and if I had to be the one to dole it out, well. I could do that.

Back home, my anger, unrelated to my family, spilled over to them. Naturally, I went on a cleaning rampage. I wanted to throw things away. Slam some stuff around. The kids hustled, following orders, keeping the peace, willing me out of my funk when it wasn't on them in the first place. I knew what was happening, I felt the tension mingle with my shame, but honestly felt incapable (unwilling?) to stop. It felt too good, too justified.

Then Cory threw a wrench in my already-torqued day. It was a total accident. He made a mistake, a simple, harmless one, and I lost it.

I cursed under my breath, shouted into the phone, made sure he knew he'd managed to make my bad day worse. I told myself my anger was validated. I raced sweaty and breathless back to my old stand-bys, "I'm the only one holding things together around here." "Everything falls on me." You know, complete lies.

In my blind, bratty mini-rage, I wanted him to feel some of the pain. I wanted apologies, and then some. I wanted everyone to acknowledge my faultlessness, but I'd settle for him.

Only because there's a God in Heaven and an empty tomb, I eventually recovered. The day wasn't as ruined as I had insisted.

Cut to yesterday.

Cory and I had just spent over an hour in our accountant's office, trying to make sense of a bunch of numbers. He did this without a single reminder that it was the busiest week of his entire year.

He drove me home, ticking down his mental to-do list, then kissed me and headed to work.

I drove back to the pond for today's 1.5 miles before diving into my own work.
And immediately locked my keys in the van.

When I called, he said he was almost to work. Why? What did I need?

Having no other choice, I humbly told him what I'd done, and apologized.

Guess what he did?

He said he was already turning around. He'd be there in twenty minutes. "Go ahead and start walking. I'll take care of it." 

He never once raised his voice. He didn't berate or shame me. He showed no sign of anger. He didn't make me pay for my sins.

I walked that familiar mile, the wind whipping my hair, my eyes trained for his van in the distance, coming to my rescue when I'd done nothing to deserve such mercy, nothing at all.

Around the furthest curve, I saw him pull up, a tiny speck across the pond. Though I should have felt deep shame, what I felt instead was tremendous grace. I felt love that was freely mine, no strings attached. A kernel of regret was still wedged in my heart, but he came for me and the cost was all his. He came, and it didn't make me want to hide, it made me want to live. It made me want to love him better, to somehow try to match his kindness.

I wondered if he could see me in the distance. Was he looking for me across the pond? I didn't blame him if he wasn't.

The gap between us was closing while I walked, but I was still only half-way there. I watched him drive away, still astonished by his goodness.

Then the van stopped. It reversed.
And he waited there for me, on his busiest day of the year.

He didn't wait because he was itching to remind me of my inadequacy, or point out all the ways I'd inconvenienced him. He didn't wait because he wanted my apology in person.

He waited because he saw me coming his way. How could he drive away?

It's true, love does things, but love also is things. 

It's patient. Kind to the core. 
It might be forgetful or distracted. Maybe it's not always the best communicator or the picture of romance. Love is Jesus, wrapped in a human. There's bound to be some fall-out.

For all I've learned in recent years about what it means to love hard people, I learn the most by being loved by one of the easiest.

I'm ready to take a closer look not at the things I do in love, but the simple way I am. Am I loving? Do I represent grace, or carve tally marks?

I can do loving things until my hair turns gray and still not be a person defined by the way I love. 

That's what love really does, it inspires growth. It makes us want to be better.
It settles into the cracks of our soul and tells us we were made for more than our shabby excuses.
It silences the clang and makes a melody of our mess.

Love is free.
Love is reckless and foolish.

That's what love is.


  1. Dang! Such a good, good story. I had to put my head down in shame because I recognized myself (and husband) all too well in those roles. Also, Cory might be the new Gilbert Blythe, just sayin'. ;)

  2. Growing up they tell you to marry a Godly man. And then you do and it's like "dang! why does he have to be so much like Jesus while I sit here acting like a crazy person." Thanks for sharing this today.

    1. Truer words have ne'er been spoken!
      This is so me.

    2. What Lisa said!!!! I love this post, Shannon.

  3. Heart pierced. Thanks a lot. No, really. :)

  4. Beautiful. You are blessed. And, so is he. :)

  5. I had a dream about you last night (in a totally non-creepy, non-stalker blogger way). I met you at the grocery store and then we quickly became best friends. Then this morning I sat down and read this post. It was the story of my day yesterday, except that I hadn't yet seen the grace and the love behind my temper tantrum. My point (I have one) is to tell you thank you, I know that God led me to you in his weird round about way, to remind me that he is here loving us, even on our ugly days. So thank you.

  6. This is real and I can SO relate....on all counts!

  7. I love that he can love you through all of your rough days :)

  8. Wow, thanks for being vulnerable and sharing. I see myself in that, what a powerful lesson.

  9. Girl, our less than stellar attitudes matched.

    Yesterday morning I was high on my "I am so busy and I deserve respect of my time and schedule and don't-you-dare cut into my plans" horse.....when Josh threw in a wrench and asked if I would help him out (be his chauffeur) because his car needed to be serviced. My response wasn't pretty.

    Two hours later, after recruiting someone else to drive him, he shows up with chips and apple salsa, a favorite drink and lunch all with a smile and a "Happy Administrative Assistant Day!". BAM.
    He never once mentioned my horrible, ridiculous attitude. And forgave me quickly when I apologized.

    Give Cory a high-five from me.


  10. I'm in a mess of tears. This... This is so beautiful, so so right, so me and my husband. Oh how I needed this , thank you!

  11. Cory is a SAINT.....BAR NONE SAINT.....

  12. Oh, this was so beautiful in so many ways. I think about love a lot too - because of all the same reasons you lay out here. Love is Jesus wrapped up in human form. Yep. But how do I do that? My husband - way more often than I'd like to admit - is so much better to me than I am to him. All of these same thoughts were running through my head this morning too, as it started pouring down rain, and my 13 year old missed the (mama)train to school. He'd normally just walk himself there (it's close). He didn't ask for me to make a second round to school, but I knew that would be the nice thing to do. By the time all traffic was considered, plus rain, plus waiting for him, a half hour would be sucked out of my measly 2.5 hours in the house by myself. I went through all the emotions. Anger, annoyance, resentment, etc, etc, etc. then tried to shake myself out of it and just be nice for crying out loud. When did, and why do, I slide into these moods where I think I am the only one on the planet who needs things? I don't like this part of myself.
    People like Cory, and my husband, and plenty of others are showing us how to love. I suppose the hardest thing is being able to get to where they are and not have to force it or fake it or convince myself. I just want to be how I live and breathe every day without reservation.

  13. Loved this post. My hubby continually treats me (often the main raging hurricane force of anger and frustration) with the same grace-ful, gentle, steadfast, just-because LOVE too. He is Jesus to me every day, and yes--you're right!--teaches me about what love truly is every day. There's so much I can learn from my man as well. Thanks for sharing!

  14. teary. we married good men that walk out JESUS to those blessed to be in their world. and you sister...you do too

  15. Thankyou for sharing.... This is me all the way. How humbling and yet uplifting to have a man who loves you in spite of ...... While I was fuming and cranking about my husband forgetting something simple, he was at that moment, unbeknownst to me, taking care of our four year old who just developed a stomach bug. Just gets in there, takes care of her and the mess. I sometimes wonder why he still does that smile thing where he raises his eyebrow and lets the love shine in my direction. I certainly don't deserve it.... Thanks for challenging me to BE love.

  16. Thank you for your honesty. I see myself in your words. You are an inspiration.

  17. I have a husband like yours. Oh my....his patience, love, kindness....overflows when I least deserve it. My Godly man didn't arrive until I was nearly 50 but I am thankful for him every day.

  18. What a wonderful example your husband is for your children. The boys witness how a true man puts his wife first even when it's. It exactly what he wants to do. Your beautiful daughter is observing this is how she should someday be treated. That's a huge lesson that can't be preached but observed. Of course, your a great example of love for your children too. Love, it certainly makes us vulnerable doesn't it?

    1. I meant.... even when it's NOT what he wants to do. He was in a hurry and made the snap decision to put your needs first.

  19. Well, gee, now I'm typing through the tears... I spent far too much time spewing the "I'm the only one holding things together" line when my children were growing up. I wish I could say it NEVER gets uttered anymore, but that's not true. It happened just the other day—and it wasn't pretty. And (yet again) there was my David, responding in grace and loving me through my ugly... just like your Cory. Yes, I know we both extend grace to our husbands, too, but it sure seems my husband has has a lot more opportunities for practice than I have! What blessed women we are to be learning love in the presence of such godly men.

  20. I'm not a tattoo kind of gal, but if I were, I'm pretty sure "Love is Jesus wrapped in a human," is what I'd have inked somewhere I could see it every minute of the day.

  21. Thank you I needed this! All too many times I feel the frustration and being overwhelmed and love is the last thing I show.

  22. I have to admit I teared up over this. This is just what I needed to read, like God knew I'd get on my computer at midnight and come across it! My whole life I have heard my mother say time and time again "Everything Falls on Me." Once our baby boy was born, I knew exactly why she said that. I have to remind myself that even though I feel like I'm the only one doing anything around the house that I'm not and that it's a big lie. I guess what also got to me was the way your husband acted...It reminded me so much of my own! He tries to be understanding and patient, and I just want to hug him thinking about how good he has treated me, no LOVED me, even when I get mad and fly off the handle. Thanks so much for sharing this! You are a wonderful mother, and I just love what you said as well. "Love is Jesus wrapped in a human."

  23. This is so lovely. What a different interpretation of what I live. I enjoyed reading this and thank you for helping me to understand the other love - that I don't often see...mine is completely different - like that on Mars or Saturn. You get the drift... It is unconditional love in this home - one where you give and give and give - and do not get anything in return. My son has severe autism and profound mental retardation - he doesn't even understand I am his mother (and that is the honest truth). He is 21 - I am his caregiver. I feed, bathe, dress, and give him his meds and attend to his needs and wants ... constantly every second police him for safety as he does not understand. What he tries to understand the autism takes away. Both disabilities fight each other. Then add the medical issues (he is constantly ill) - grand mal seizure - he suffered a ministroke - which furthered his brain injury. I am a tool - this is how he understands life - I am the tool to his needs - that is it. Plain and simple. Through 21 years of this- I realize that I have been taught patience - so much so that the big things rock my boat now. Nothing to fight about with my spouse - things don't matter as much as the did BK (before kids) or rather (BA) Before Autism... What is interesting though is how he is able to measure the size of everyone's heart. There is no tool or app or anything out there to see the size of one's heart... my son can measure all - it is how one treats him - talks to him - looks at him that clearly identifies the size of their heart. There are those who I believe may only have a shell of an organ that does the functioning thing to keep themselves alive... those are the people that laugh at him - make horrid remarks - loud enough for me and him to hear - and there are those where I wonder how their hearts are able to fit inside the human body ... these are the people that will say hi to him every time they see him even though they know he is unable to answer or never even gives a glance ... there are the people that will go out of their way to ask how he is doing time after time - and wait for an answer... I only know love this way - I have lived 21 years in a shell with him and feel far removed from everything / anything / normalcy... I love strong - with every ounce of my being... I know no other way - with my sort of love - it evokes a lot of sadness too.... this is so hard to describe in words... I don't read many blogs - and I barely take the time to comment to something unless I feel the strong need to say thank you. For wha this is worth - thank you for writing your blog - I see a different perspective of humanity at its finest. I enjoy and relish what you have to say. There are days that I cry because I would like to have a just one minute of this life - and I cry a lot. Then there are days when I feel compelled to say thank you. Tonight I actually did ... Thank you. I think you are the very definition of the word "love".

  24. I just really really loved this.