[This is what real love is]
We may prefer to believe that we naturally understand love, however, this just isn’t true. Scripture tells us that above all else the heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9-10) The true face of love is the unfailing love of Jesus Christ who endured all things even to death on a cross.
As followers of Christ it’s His love that we aim to imitate. I still have plenty of room to grow myself, but thankfully, with time, patience, practice and most of all God’s great help, things can and do grow and change.
In my teenage years I was obsessed with love. (What teenage girl isn’t, right?) I’d spend countless hours pining over the idea of finding my own prince charming, and writing love songs that reflected how I felt. One of those songs went like this: “If you love me now, then you’ll love me then because it can’t be love if there’s an end.”
I may not be a songwriter, but I did get something right: love never ends. How did I know this? This is Biblical love! Technically speaking, I’m still obsessed with love; It’s my understanding, actions, and who I love that has changed some.
Even though I wasn’t raised in a home that knew God, I did have a strong understanding of commitment. This is likely because both my parents and my grandparents were committed to one another. (I do believe that my grandparents knew God) I don’t doubt that these strong examples influenced my understanding.
Perhaps, I was also influenced by the old familiar fairytale ending that we hear as kids: “And they lived happily ever after.” This is what we strive for isn’t it? However, striving alone isn’t enough; we do need God’s guidance and help.
Unfortunately, fairy tales and nursery rhymes don’t tell us enough about the bumps along the way. Okay, so maybe we do have that brother and sister duo (Jack and Jill) as one of our shining examples: “Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.” Evidently, family mishaps do happen.
This nursery rhyme becomes even more telling when Jack goes to bed with a plastered head; his sister Jill comes in with a grin and is then whipped by their mother for causing Jack’s disaster. (What kind of nursery rhyme is this!? I’m about to break into my own rendition of “Can you feel the love tonight.”)
Did Jill really cause the disaster? Was discipline deserved? Did their mother over react? Is it possible that Jill just found Jack’s plastered head quite the sight and couldn’t help but grin?
There isn’t enough information there, but sadly this nursery rhyme isn’t a far cry from reality; when one stumbles, others can quickly come tumbling after. Whether it’s romantic love, or the love of family and friends, we have plenty to learn about love.
I wrote the following poem 6 years into my walk with God. There’s one line which stands out to me now, much like a very sore Tom Thumb. I don’t know when I spotted it, but since then, It’s drivin’ me batty. One could say, there are bats in the belfry and this poem doesn’t ring true! (Uh, not my belfry. At least, I hope not.) See if you can spot the error.
Our Grandma’s Love
Our grandma’s love it seems to me
Is often served with cookies and tea
Her smile is bright, and her laughter endearing
Her stories of youth are always worth hearing
Our grandma’s love, it seems to me
Is open and warm, and always comes free
An example to all, that love has no binds
She is always so close in our hearts and our minds.
January 20, 2001
If “An example to all, that love has no binds.” doesn’t ring true to you either, then yes, you spotted my error. What I was likely trying to express here was that her love never felt restrictive, or maybe I meant that her love knew no bounds. Either way, I know that at this particular point in time I didn’t have a full understanding of the true power of love. After all, true love does indeed have binds.
Because my grandma was faithful to God, she was also faithful to her husband and her family: she loved my grandpa until death did them part, and when she was instructed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to cut ties with her family who’d been dis-fellowshipped (my parents), she refused to do so. Last, but not least, when my uncle found himself in a rough place, she took him into her home and loved him as he was.
At least one family member voiced discontent at this scenario, but my grandma had a clear understanding of love. I respected her for this. I’m not saying that she was perfect, but she was stubbornly faithful to both God and family.
The glaring error in my poem makes a good point. As Jesus set an example for all, we are to be an example to those around us also. What kind of example are we setting? If my grandma hadn’t been so stubbornly loyal, perhaps I’d have had another perspective to confuse my thinking. Perhaps I wouldn’t have understood love as being fully committed as I did when I wrote my song.
“For I [Jesus] have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” –John 13:15 (ESV)
“In the same way, teach older women to be holy in their behavior, not speaking against others or enslaved to too much wine, but teaching what is good. Then they can teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be wise and pure, to be good workers at home, to be kind, and to yield to their husbands. Then no one will be able to criticize the teaching God gave us.” Titus 2:3-5 (NCV)
My grandma isn’t the only one who has taken family into their own homes. As believers, this is something we’re instructed to do; we’re even told to welcome strangers into our homes (Hebrews 13:2), but Scripture makes it clear that refusing to care for our relatives, especially those in our own household means denying the faith.
“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” –1 Timothy 5:8(NLT)
We’ve been taught and shown better. If loves’ tie isn’t binding, then we don’t know love, and if we don’t know love, then we don’t know God as we should or we aren’t listening and obeying. (1 John 4:8) As believers, our hearts aren’t tethered to God alone: in Christ our hearts are tied to one another also.
Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
UM Hymnal, No. 557
Much like the binding of a book; God’s love draws us together. When that binding is ignored and worn, however, pages can begin to fall away, and one by one we become missing pages.
We are commanded to love one another other. When we fail to maintain our relationships and we fail to pray and wait for God’s help, we set ourselves up to become those missing pages.
Thankfully, God keeps working to reestablish us back into that binding. He’ll never give up; He’ll never abandon us; and He’ll never allow us to remain who we’ve become. We must be changed.
I do believe in fairytale endings, but only because I believe in the transforming power of God’s love. We may trip, fall and take a pretty good tumble down the garden path, but even if all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, we know the One who can and will. Keep praying for those who are neither listening to His voice, nor following His example and being that living one. Let’s be an example ourselves.
“This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son [Jesus] to die in our place to take away our sins.” –1 John 4:10 (NCV)
And because we can always use a reminder of what love really looks like:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” –Doug Larson
“Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.” – Francis of Assisi