So it’s love week. The one where oo-ey drippy love posts cover our social media pages. Chocolate hearts, roses by the dozens, and an obscene number of kissy faces in red shirts, red tights, red dresses, and even glittered-red sweatpants are the name of the game. And then there are the other posts with tongue-in-cheek jokes like Dwight from The Office saying: Do I have a date for Valentine’s? Yes. February 14th.”
In the midst of the fun, the sappy, the precious, and the melancholy, I heard someone ask, “So what does love mean anyway?” I asked Spencer, my 10-year-old son, that question and got an expected response: “When you let your firstborn stay out of bed as late as he wants and just be together.” Hmmm…thinking maybe love is supposed to be a little less self-serving.
I have to tell you, I’m not all that great with making sweeping, poignant definitions. My mind works more in stories to define by way of example. I also think a definition for something as universal as “love” needs to be universally-defined enough to include not just couples, but also the individual human – kids, neighbors, strangers, and even our enemies. Of course, that brings to mind a quote from one of the greatest Storytellers Who ever lived. Again, not so much a definition, as it is a template: “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back.” (Luke 6:35, NIV) Interestingly enough this same Storyteller followed through on putting His beautiful thoughts into actions….ultimately dying to save the lives of His Friends.
While we will not likely be called to go to the ultimate extreme of death, it seems love in its purest, most recognizable forms are manifested by the setting aside of “self” for the good of another. For Daron and I and our kids, love is played out more in the “in-between-moments” of daily life rather than the big splashy display of a commercialized holiday that comes around once a year. Don’t get me wrong! I get all gushy when Daron walks through the door with mini roses for our girls and a bigger rose for me. The squeals of delight are contagious and fun. Yet, there is a deeper message being reinforced or our daughters: Daddy is the protector of their innocent hearts until the day comes to pass them off to their forever prince. Love is seen in the fierce protection of a healthy daddy-daughter relationship. Value is given to our girls; honor is built; expectation of how a man treats his lady; and so much more.
The “in-between-moments” of love look like giving up a morning of sleeping in to be present with my earlier-rising hubby on his day off. It might be seen in a well-timed conversation with a friend; or, helping an aging neighbor with tasks that need done. See, life isn’t made up of the spectacular, gold-medal-winning moments; rather, it’s made up of the faithful, inconvenient, unseen moments of intentionality and self-discipline. The amazing athletes that inspire us in the Olympics to go full-out on the ski slopes; the Super Bowl winners that make teamwork look like a breeze; and, the heroes of the news reels…all of these BIG, INSPIRING moments were made possible because of people who are faithful to the routine of the “in-between”….of working hard and sweating hard and living well with what they’ve been given.
I stumbled across a blog post by Ann Voskamp this week in which she shares firsthand of the humanitarian efforts of Katie Davis Majors. Katie flew to Uganda when she was 18 and has since impacted the orphan population of Uganda in amazing ways. As I read, I was tempted to think, “Wow! What a life…making a difference. Daily doing big things…breakfast with New York Times Best-Selling Authors…” And then I stopped and really felt the pictures that accompanied the article. Poverty. Children with PTSD. The constant pull of responsibility. Meals to make for children who are hungry now. Some of these sound eerily familiar. And I’m reminded – these are what make up the in-between moments that require a self-less love and a heap of grace!
We all love the big peak moments on life’s graph of accomplishments; yet, it’s really the life lived out in the valley that defines the effectiveness of our influence. Every day our sphere of influence is reaching people around us – our kids, the clerk at the grocery store, the coffee shop’s barista, or the receptionist we pass everyday at the office. The consistency of kindness in the everyday moments has an impact you may never know. Just as ripples in a pond go on and on, so a genuinely loving action reaches past your immediate circle to impact the world for good.
If this week of “love” has been a good one of focused attention or a lonely week you dread every year for one reason or another, may it challenge us. Take a hard look at those emotions you have felt. Happy? Sad? Lonely? Loved? Then, use it. Learn from it. None of us is an island. We ALL impact someone else. Take the joy and pass it on! Take the sorrow, find someone who may be there too, and just give where you can.
Love is not just a happy emotion. Love hurts with the hurting. Love sits in the dark and quietly validates the pain with presence. Love says you are not too much, or too scary, or too far gone. Love says, “No matter who you are or if you feel you are the least of men, you are worthy of life and a chance…of kindness, of grace extended.”
Perhaps, for some of us this Valentine’s week, the greatest act of love we could start this journey with is the act of loving ourselves…of believing we are worthy of the love, grace, and forgiveness we strive to extend to others. A very wise mentor once told me, “It is impossible to give what we do not possess.” If we do not love ourselves, it is difficult to live out love to others. Could it be that if we learn this idea of loving ourselves - then, living that love out as kindness to others - we will find the beauty we seek: a life well-lived and a life well-loved?