IN THIS POST: A brief summary of the various thoughts and lessons that I am learning about love. With a reconsideration of 1 Corinthians 13 (the “love chapter”).
Valentine’s Day seems like an appropriate day to post about love. It’s a bit cliché perhaps but a natural connection nonetheless.
Learning About Love: How It Started
Almost twelve years ago we welcomed our first daughter into the world. In many ways it was a shock to my system that I did not anticipate. It also revealed a lot of ugly in my soul. There’s nothing quite like a lack of sleep to expose the unfiltered and unchecked version of yourself.
Excuses aside, I realized a few gaps in my spiritual maturity. I considered the places where Christ-followers are instructed to love (1 John 4:7-21; Colossians 3:14; Romans 13:8; Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; Mark 12:29-31).
In those early stages of parenthood, functioning on minimal sleep, my loving feelings were non-existent. I was just trying to get through. In other words, what I said I believed was thrown into sharp relief against how I was actually living.
DISCLAIMER: Before bleary-eyed mothers everywhere begin to question their spiritual life because of my experience, please read. This is part of my spiritual growth that needed to happen, and it emerged in this context. It does not follow that being a sleep-deprived person means God is trying to tell you to suck it up and love better. I give the context because it is what surrounds my journey, not because it is prescriptive.
But as I read all the familiar passages I questioned their relevance and impact. I mean, 1 Corinthians 13 can say “love is patient, love is kind” but what does that look like on a daily basis. I needed to dig into these familiar words with some more specifics.
What is Love, IRL?
Where did “love is patient, etc.” challenge my life and my application of loving my neighbor? As it turned out, in a lot of places I didn’t think to (or want to) look.
In learning about love I uncovered some convicting realities. Love is patient could break down into love is not being so busy that I don’t have time (impatience) to sit with an anxious child because I need to make dinner. “Love is not self-seeking” breaks down to putting the needs of a friend in front of vacation plans.
Likewise, speaking what is right or donating to charity looks good on the outside, but without love, in God’s economy, they are nothing.
Love might look like a lot of good words and good deeds to the outside world, but if none of that is emerging from love, then God says it’s worth nothing.
No brownie points for trying. No “way to at least get your butt in gear” ra-ra cheers. Nothing. It means nothing.
The more I reflected on love, asked God to teach me to love (be careful what you ask for), and practiced (and failed) at love, the more I came to one conclusion.
Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Love
The most important thing I’ve learned about love is: love is hard.
I think this is partly because love in its truest form is about sacrifice. And sacrifice involves suffering – sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ways – and U.S. American culture has conditioned us to equate suffering as fully and completely negative or a punishment. In either case, something to be avoided or condemned.
I’m still teasing that connection out, but that love is hard isn’t uncertain.
1 Corinthians 13 Reimagined
In any case, I started to write down what I was learning. I used the rhythm and layout that Paul had beautifully written and inserted the areas God had revealed to my unloving self. Now the passage that had been overused and under-appreciated in my life took on new life and really difficult reality.
Of course, this doesn’t in any way replace 1 Corinthians 13 as Paul wrote it and as it has been preserved in the Bible. What it did for me is tease out some of the 21st century ways that I was missing the mark — big time.
I’m an ongoing work-in-progress on learning about love, let alone putting it into action. I am coming to terms with the reality that it will be a life-long journey.
The Text in Graphics
Do any of these resonate with your challenges? What are you learning about love?