What does it mean to love?
Many of us associate love with a feeling (particularly a good feeling). If you feel good or it makes you feel good, it must be love. If it hurts and makes you feel bad or challenged, it must not be love. Diving into this question makes me think about all the different types of love, depths and choices we make in its name.
- Do I LOVE Starbucks? Sure On some level. I have affection for my favorite coffee in the morning.
- Do I LOVE my car? In the sense that I love how it gets me from one place to the other.
- Do I LOVE correction? Mmmm…it doesn’t feel good. But in hindsight, I’m grateful for it and see it as an act of love.
- Do I LOVE my bunny? I must have. I wept like a baby when he passed away.
- Do I LOVE my parents? I’m sure of it. I know I would do ANYTHING for them…even when/if I want to do something else and it’s an inconvenience to me.
And by that response, I wonder if the depth of our love is measured by what we are willing to DO for someone in spite of our feelings?
John 15:12 says “Love each other, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus is talking about sacrifice=love. I used to always take this literally: I knew if I was willing to jump in front of a bus to save a friend, I must love them to the extent that God loved me and that was the greatest love of all.
But what if the sacrifice is so much more? Could laying down one’s life be an act of ongoing love and not just one final act? Dying to ourselves, our wants, our desires and conveniences in order to put someone else’ needs first = love. Doing something for someone knowing they may never appreciate or return the favor…. must be an act of love.
… or so I deduce… in my humble opinion.
So why all the ramblings on this question? Because I have been deeply touched by another act of sacrifice and love that I’m inspired to pick up the mantel and carry it forward.
Recently, my little pet bunny passed away. I found him in the morning in a position that suggested he went peacefully. He was about 12-13 years old (super old for a bunny) and I had known it was possibility for a couple years but it hit me pretty hard. Maybe the tears were for more than my little companion of 11 years: maybe they were also for my grandpa who I lost 6 months earlier; for my friend who just lost her daddy; for my other friend who just lost her mom (my childhood adopted parents) and for my friend who just lost her brother…
All I know, I was a mess and confronted with dealing with a body and death that I didn’t want to deal with. So I told a friend who offered to help me take care of it. My goal was to get far away: “Do whatever with it, “I said. “It’s just a body at this point and I don’t care.”
Yep…I was pretty certain I didn’t care and certain of what I needed … until… my friend asked if I wanted to know what happened with the body. “When you are ready, I will tell you, but if you are not…”
My curiosity won over my fears and I tentatively said, “Fine, tell me.”
I was presented with a picture of a stone grave and a video of a remembrance service. Immediately, I wept. They were not tears of sadness: they were tears of joy and relief and gratitude. I thought I knew what I wanted/needed while trying to cope with it all…but alas…THIS was a far better option. And I didn’t even know I wanted/needed it until it was presented to me. To my surprise, I loved the idea of my sweet boy cared for in that way…honoring our 11 years of companionship. Sure…he was just a bunny…but something about that act of service for me… was profoundly touching.
It dawned on me later what my friend had to do to pull all that off: contact my family, leave work, pick up the body, travel to destination, work with/involve my brother; dig the grave, arrange for the photos and video; come up with meaningful words and return to present me with a gift of peace of mind. Was this all Inconvenient? Untimely? Yes! I’m very aware that it was. And yet… it was an act of sacrifice… not just given freely but joyfully.
“Love each other, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).
I’m left pondering the depth of the question: what is love? What does it truly mean to love and be loved?
Can the depth the question stirs be answered this side of heaven? I’m not sure. I do however believe the Bible when it says LOVE IS GOD. If GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:8), it means love is as eternal, mysterious and as infinitely powerful as God Himself. Far beyond our understanding, it is a feeling, a choice, a motivation, a presence that surrounds us and engulfs us: a living breathing personification of life itself. It is the bread for our soul, water for our thirsty spirit and it is as abundant and seemingly unexplainable as the air we have and breathe.
Love is more than a verb, it’s a noun. And today, I’m grateful for the act of sacrifice (the verb) and the persons (God and my friend) who have personified it for me. I pray for my opportunity to do the same for another…to lay down my life for the sake of another and ask you to look around and see who you might bless today? I promise you…no act of love, no matter how small or large, will go unnoticed.