In 2012 the most frequent question asked of Google was ‘what is love?’ Seriously!? Of all the thoughts and ideas and facts to be devoured in our information saturated world the most desired enquired and sought after topic was,
The mind-altering-behavior-bending-soul-breaking-loneliness-elixir, THE BIG L, that’s right I’m talking about ‘that word, say it clear now, L.O.V.E. love.’ (whatever happened to the Rockmelons anyway? Hehe.)
It’s either really important to lots of people, or, we’re all sitting at home on the weekend lonely as all get-up seeking comfort from a search engine – totally legit reason I guess. Oh… and for the record in 2013 we asked Google ‘what is twerking’ more than any other question. Wow. No. Comment. Necessary.
So at the risk of alienating half of my reader-list I want to talk about LOVE. The nasty the wonderful and everything in-between. I figure that if we’re interested enough to seek wisdom from an inanimate object then I’m probably justified and qualified to comment.
L O V E I S C O N F U S I N G
Now… before you roll your eyes at yet another love-blog-post I challenge you to take a moment and consider what it is you actually understand about love. For those of us in an English speaking culture we’re a little disadvantaged when it comes to talking about love. Many cultures use multiple words to describe the different types of love that can be expressed and experienced. But aside from adding the occasional adjective to help clarify our use of the word, there is only one word to describe this life altering state of being. It’s any wonder we attribute and equate love with all sorts of different things.
I think it is fair to say most people think a lot about the subject of love, and you can be sure there are as many different definitions of love as there are people who consider it. Why does this matter? Because what one understands about love informs how one experiences love, which will inevitably affect how one holds the love of another. And EVERYONE has an opinion and an experience of love. It’s fair to say that the confusion about love is often because people are speaking a different language even though they are using the same word!
You see the way I love my brother is different to the way I love my children, but to both my brother and my children I say ‘I love you’. The way I love my parents is different to the way I love my wife. But to both my parents and my wife I say ‘I love you’. And whilst it is true that I love my brother, children, parents and wife, ‘I love you’ means something very different to each of them as they receive those words from me. It’s any wonder we get confused and desperate to understand love.
So on our quest to better understand and describe love we turn to metaphors of contrast. People refer to things like the ‘white knuckle relationship roller coaster’. You know that feeling? The terrifying and exhilarating experience as we travel at breakneck speed clinging on for dear life through the love induced relational highs and lows? Or perhaps you identify with the more romantic amongst us who like to think of love as a rose. A symbol of searing beauty with velvet red petals inviting us closer with its alluring sweet scent. We reach out to take hold of this prized beauty only to discover that is has the power and potential to cut deep with its viscous thorns (thank you Bette Midler… if you’re under the age of thirty you can Google that too). It seems there is no end to imagery and art dedicated to describe the paradox that is love.
P L E A S U R E & P A I N
Love is enchanting. Love can cost. Love fills us with passion for another. Love can make us furious with anger. Love is beautiful and to love is also to risk pain, rejection and hurt. Love discovered is wonderful, and love lost is excruciating. It really is bizarre, and it leaves me wondering how one emotion can cause people to behave in such diverse and opposite ways?
Heaven knows that I have made a mess of love often enough, but…
“I have come to accept that much of how I experience life is directly related to how I hold love and what I expect of it.”
So I ask you again, what do you understand love to be? How do you hold it? And what do you expect of it? Because sometimes it sure feels like love can fail us.
A loving husband fails a hurting wife with a careless word.
A parent’s love fails an abused child and their world is no longer safe.
A son’s love fails a lonely and aging parent when they don’t call.
A loving woman fails her self by giving into the expectations for love from others.
A man fails his closest friends when he is found out to be living a double life.
And we begin to think that love has failed us.
L O V E I S A L W A Y S G O O D
But is it possible for love to fail? I’m not so sure. Love is in essence always good, but it’s important to remember that love is always outworked and controlled by people – fallible, broken, and imperfect people. Whilst it is true that people may fail in their endeavor to love-well, I would argue that Unfailing Love still remains.
When life, relationships and experiences feel like shifting sand beneath our feet it is important to remember that Love has not shifted with it. Love can be known, held well and experienced fully. It is found in the One who is described as ‘pure love’. Whilst there are not words adequate to completely and comprehensively describe this love heres a few words that work for me:
Unfailing Love is…
Strong – Humble – Sacrificial – Intimate – Hospitable – Generous – Committed – Gracious…
There’s more to be said but that’s not a bad start.
I don’t know about you, but I could do with a love like that. I know that I can’t always be that for another, nor should I come to expect that others can always be that for me, but I sure will try. And I’d like to think that others will also try to extend this sort of love in return. Inevitably we’ll fail to do this well but it’s then that I choose to remember the One who has and does extend love in this way.
The song at the beginning of this post is wonderful, I really do like it* (kudos to Jess, Dan and the Insideout team for writing and recording such fantastic music). It reminds me of some of the most beautiful words ever written on the subject of love. That in spite of the fallible nature of human affection there is such a love that demands my attention and embrace, that there IS such a thing as Unfailing Love.
May this inform how we hold, understand, and offer love.