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?
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.
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 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.