Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is Love Anyway? - Valentine's series part 2

(Part 1 - what love is not - is here)

I didn't have good examples of what Love looks like, or is supposed to look like. I'm not really sure what a normal family looks like or how they express love. If a genie ever pops out of a lamp, one of my wishes will be the ability to be a "fly on the wall" so I can observe what normal families do. Every so often, an opportunity will present itself and I'll catch a glimpse of normalcy and true love.

I relish those times. I store them up in my memory bank and pull them out to ponder on frequently. Most of the time the participants have no idea that their off-the-cuff statement meant so much to me or that I am learning love by watching them.

When I became pregnant the first time, and when my daughter was born, I had a moment of panic. How was I, an emotionless numb person, going to demonstrate love to my baby? Like being struck by lightening, a thought flew into my head that I did have examples of love in my life - sometimes in little things. And sometimes in big things. I just had to search my memory bank for them.

Some of the things floating around in my memory bank are -

* Love Looks Like This - The neighbor who lived around the corner from my childhood home. She took my sister and I in before and after school so that we would not be home alone (I was in 3rd or 4th grade and my sister was in 1st). She also took us to a Bible kids' activity in the evening sometimes too. She demonstrated love for me. Another time, I saw love when I had an unfortunate accident and my in-laws dropped everything, left work immediately and came to our house to be with my daughter so my husband could come be with me. My own mother would never have done that.

* Love Sounds Like This - One time I was in a meeting with someone when their daughter called. It was late and we were just chit chatting. She took the call and I tried not to eavesdrop but it's hard not to hear things when you are in the same room. This mother was reassuring her daughter (an adult) that things would be fine. Giving support without offering platitudes. Her voice softened and I could hear love. Another mother I know commented that she was sleeping on the couch downstairs because her adult daughter was recovering from oral surgery and might need her. What is that like? Having a mother sleep near you, just in case you need her?

* Love Feels like This - A time someone mentioned her daughter (an adult) being sick and coming to her office to curl up on her lap. I don't remember doing that with my mom as a child, let alone as an adult. That is what love looks like. It’s also in the feeling of safe hugs from safe people.

* Love Tastes like This - A cold frappucino coffee drink delivered to my house after I had jaw surgery, from someone stopping by to visit and make sure I'm okay.

* Love Smells like This - the smell of my newborn baby daughter when she is curled up beside me.

Love is sometimes found when you least expect it -

* In college, hearing rustling and see $200 cash come sliding under my door. Put there by my mentors I'm sure, although they tried to be anonymous. Put there so that I could stop being forced to call and "make nice" with my father just so he would send me money for my medical bills. Delivered anonymously so I would know there were no strings attached. The sacrifice they made is what love is.* Strangers taking an off-the-cuff, joking comment about wanting to be adopted, and opening up their hearts and lives to me. Without knowing much about me at all, or having ever met me.

* Online friends who care enough to call, text, email, and write me.

* A childhood boyfriend who stayed with me on those nights when my mother would work the third shift, just so he could be there when the nightmares would come.

* A sister, ready to drop everything, and fly down here when I'm struggling. A sister who loves me enough to threaten (and she would do it) to "kick my ass" if I do anything to harm myself.

* Hearing 1 John 3:16 "this is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." Knowing that this pertains to me and that I'm "okay" in God's eyes. It’s also in the sound of the voices of a few people I know. I’ve been privileged enough to hear them pray - hear the way their voice softens when they talk to God. Knowing instinctively that they are engaged in a very important, intimate conversation. I especially see love in the ones that encourage me to really explore my relationship with God - without hiding my anger or uncertainty.
Love is sometimes shown in appropriate anger - like the sound of a father’s voice, outraged that some passerby would dare make inappropriate comments to his daughter. In the anger and outrage, I hear and see (although it still startles me) on people’s faces when I mention something that happened in my childhood - often something I considered "normal."

Love is shown in the kindness of my in-laws who used up all their vacation time to come stay with my husband after knee surgery so I could get back to work, because I had used up all my vacation time on maternity leave. My mother-in-law does not drive in cities and was terrified of having to drive my husband all around - but she did it anyway, out of love for us.

I’m so grateful for having friends and family, and even internet blog "strangers" who demonstrate love in my life. It has taken me awhile to learn what love is. But I feel more confident that I will be able to demonstrate love to my daughter so that she won’t have to learn what love is NOT.


Marj aka Thriver said...

Wow, this is a great series on love. Thanks for letting me use it for the BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. You rock!

Kahless said...

A really fantastic couple of posts.
Really good. I think it is really helpful to read.

lawyerchik said...

This is really beautiful, Enola! When I read Part I, my heart broke - even with Part II, although you described some amazing examples of love.

I couldn't help but think, though, of another passage that is often mentioned, and unfortunately used as a weapon to bind and damage people, but which is not as often really read and understood as a result:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not jealous.
Love does not brag and is not arrogant.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in truth.

I like the way the NIV puts this one part: love always protects. Thanks for sharing these things, Enola!

[I know this definition can be twisted - my answer to anyone who would try is that they should look at their own behavior to see if they have acted in loving ways before they go pointing out the speck in someone else's eye....]

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

My dear Enola, this is one of the most beautiful and compelling essays on love that I have ever read. I have read it twice in the past few minutes and have linked to it so that I may read it again.

Thank you and many blessings and much, much love to you, my friend.

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Enola,

I came from Nick's Bytes, following his links to your beautiful essays of love. I am glad he put the link up, so I could read it. I'm glad you are safe now, and have experienced "real love."



Tina said...

This was a great series... I am glad you are finally able to see/feel/smell/taste/experience what love truly is...

I love lawyerchik's comments...especially the passage. That passage is often a part of wedding ceremonies - was in ours. Yet, it is not always absorbed, understood or molded into our lives. Most people take it as part of the ceremony, but never really embrace it in the relationship. In most cases, they can't embrace it because they never felt love the way it should be in the first place.

I hope the love you found now will continue to grow...and you will continue to learn it and relish it.

healandforgive said...

Enola, The stark contrast between the first post and the second, draws out the power and simplicity of love. Thank you for sharing your heart.