The month of love and romance is now more than halfway over.
If you’re like me, the next time you go to the store you might check out the chocolates that are now 50 percent off (Hooray!). Because anytime is a good time for chocolate, heart-shaped or otherwise.
We all appreciate a good romance, those twists and turns that come on the path to true love. True romantic love is plenty of work. Any of us who’ve been married any length of time know that.
1 Corinthians 13 is often quoted regarding love, in which the Apostle Paul expounds on what love is, and does, and what it does not do. This is the highest form of love, agape, which is unconditional and is not based on how someone treats us or how we might feel about them.
One of the best demonstrations of that kind of love is doing something called “hugging the cactus.”
I wish there was an easy way to do this, embracing (literally or figuratively) someone who I don’t think deserves it. Or maybe they’ve done me wrong.
Emotions can run high. What emotions connected to love don’t? There have been times I know in my heart I must love someone with that unconditional love and I know it’s not humanly possible for me to do so.
It goes something like this:
God, I know I need to love them. But I don’t know how. They’ve _________, _________, and even ________. And that hurts. It’s not fair. I’m working on the forgiveness, but the love? I don’t know if I can do that.
Then I am reminded of the passages in 1 John which talk about love, the love of God for us, and the love we should have for each other. Period. Not the “I’ll love them if I think they deserve it.” But love we should have for each other.
This makes me distinctly uncomfortable, especially if there are those who’ve hurt me, or my family. Especially if they are fellow Christians.
Forgiveness and love don’t always go hand-in-hand. We may forgive someone, which is a process itself, just like love when it is a challenge. I don’t believe it means we run up to them in a sappy-sweet manner, gushing about how wonderful they are and can we have coffee sometime?
Sometimes it is a matter of putting someone on our prayer list. Praying for their health, their well-being, their mindset and their heart, as well as their spiritual walk.
Not always easy when human nature urges us to either find a way to get them back, or run fleeing the other way. Permanently. (Yes, I do believe there are certain instances when it is best to not have any contact with certain individuals, but for the most part, I don’t believe that.)
I still think back to an awards show when actor Robert Downey Jr. presented an award to fellow actor and director Mel Gibson, and thanked Mel for the impact he’d made on his life–”hugging the cactus.” Robert knew he probably didn’t deserve the kindness shown to him when he was at his lowest and others wouldn’t grant him some grace. He also called for people to do the same for Mel, who’d made some bad decisions that were made very public.,
Part of me learning to love someone who’s a challenge to love involves me realizing, like Robert, that I’ve done some things that need forgiveness too. I need unconditional love as much as the next person.
To me, that is very humbling.
Bring on the chocolates, bring on the romance, but bring on unconditional love as well, even when it is not deserved.
If you are looking for some early-spring reading, I hope you will check out Love Blossoms, a new collection from six other splendid authors and myself. This includes my novella set at Easter time in Vermont. It might be a little early, but if you are anywhere snowbound or ice-bound, it might help you feel a tad warmer and remind you that yes, spring will come.