Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Education in Love

And it really was.  Winter’s great but so is summer and spring and fall.  I like the seasons changing from one to another.  Our school was cancelled, yet again this morning due to the unknown frequency of frozen rain throughout the day.  However, Friday on Valentine’s Day, there is a sunny forecast with a high of 63.  Shiny, happy weather to celebrate love.

The giving of love is an education in itself.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

For some of us, the showing or demonstration of our love and affection is not a natural thing-- or an easy thing.  It can feel awkward and we wonder if our expression is truly welcome sometimes.  But that’s the risk of love, yes?  We risk rejection, embarrassment or misunderstanding any time we convey love.  My expression of love may be challenged, but I know the feeling of it is strong.  It stirs in my heart and sometimes gets caught in my throat-- under a lump.  And all my life I have been studying this “giving of love”.

I love to watch the person whose demonstrations of love are fluid, involuntary and even impulsive.  Like a knee jerk response, not calculated but just happening.  It could be a quick hug, a simple way of serving someone, kind words, or shared tears.  If this giving is effortless for you, bless you.  You make the world more lovely.  And you are a dear friend to have.  I am blessed to call some of you friends.

Possibly, my education of this giving was first challenged in college.  I had a friend who was fluent in showing love.  I marveled at it- how easily the words of affirmation flowed, how bold the words came with no thought, it seemed, of the risks taken with such exhibitions.  When I met my friend’s family, it all made sense.  It was an education received at home.  It was a gift.  Having a friend like this was new to me-- and I was intrigued.  It got me to thinking, I wish I had some of that.

Then I met Jeff.  He was further along in his education in the “giving of love” than I was.  He was uncomplicated and very intuitive when it came to emotions.  It was all familiar territory for him.  And it blessed me.  And I fell in love with him.  As hard as I tried to risk or go out on a limb-or so I thought, my manifestations of love didn’t always communicate the volumes of affections I felt.  Well, he understood them at some point- enough to pop the question Valentines Day 1992, but I know it’s a weakness of mine- demonstrating on the outside what’s going on on the inside.  Jeff has taught me much, modeled much-- to his exhaustion at times, I am sure.  And for years, I have prayed for these overflowing, involuntary expressions of love to be an easier part of who I am- one accustomed to wearing her heart on her sleeve.  If for no other reason but for me to experience, more frequently, the joy of expressing my heart.

Then I held my first baby.  Whoa.  Nothing prepares you for that, does it?  No, she wasn’t born from my womb, but she was such a fixture of my heart for so long, I cannot comprehend a difference.  Expressions came freely.  Fluidly.  Intuitively.  There’s no risk with a baby.  Then came Brighton and love multiplied.  When you thought there was no more to give, it comes in and then goes out.  Freely.

And my education continued.

Jeff and I read the Keller’s book on marriage {The Meaning of Marriage} during our 20th year of marriage and I remember their saying a key verse in Scripture regarding marriage is Philippians 2:3-5.  I learned that passage in high school and struggled significantly with it then.  I left it on my Mom’s bathroom mirror on a Ziggy Post-It note in probably 1986-- and it’s still there.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”

I had acted like an idiot, then, as a daughter just as I do so many times as a wife and a mother.  Just last night, I had the mantra going in my head, “value others above yourself, value others above yourself”.  I don’t know about you, but “selfish ambition” comes very naturally to me.  I’ve educated myself really well with that one.  And I really enjoy looking out for my own interests.  Really.  Enjoy.  The fifth thing that 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is NOT is self seeking.  We know it. We’ve heard it a zillion times.  But what does that really look like?  And that’s what I’ve been asking the Lord to show me.  What does it really look like to think of someone else first, place someone else’s needs before your own- consistently- moment by moment? What does that look like after a long, beat down day?  Or on a day when your plate is stacked with “must do’s-- no exceptions”?  Or when you feel no one understands your needs?

 And the education continues....

The giving of love is an education in itself.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

And how great that education is.  Love.  It’s WHO GOD IS.  The more we learn of love, the more we know of God.  The closer we get to the true meaning and expressions of love, the closer we get to Christ.  The more fluid we are in this language of love, the more fluid we are in living out who Christ made us to be.

And nothing is more powerful or fulfilling than that.

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