Love

I suspect that there is a paradox at the heart of love.

I find it interesting looking back over my life thus far and seeing the idea fashions change. I am much more aware of these that clothe fashions…

One idea that was very trendy for a while in my life was the idea that we need to get over the idea that love is an emotion. The message of that era was that love is an action and that we can choose to do it even if we don’t have warm feelings. It was an important message and one that continues to inform my understanding of what mature love is. The decision to be kind even when one is exhausted speaks of profound love.

It is very incomplete though.

In the most profound call to love in the New Testament Paul writes,

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Paul’s aspired to learn to love. This, for him, wasn’t just loving action but something more. Paul feels that you can have deep wisdom, amazing faith and the most self-sacrificing actions and it all means nothing if you don’t have love. This love that Paul speaks of here is an emotional thing. It is not s simple one and it is not a transient thing but it is a feeling.

For me the door into love is learning to perceive the world’s beauty with gratitude. As I become more and more present to the world and more and more able to see the people in it I find myself loving it and them more. I believe it is a combination of learning to see the other, being present to what is and taking down the emotional barriers built up as protection from being hurt that allows us to love.

And from that love flows genuine loving action.

In one of her comments here Heather wrote that perhaps if we act lovingly then perhaps the emotional side will follow. I am not sure if this is a path I would recommend. I know far to many people, mostly women, who have built lives filled with the habitual acts of loving and have lost touch with what they want. They often wake up after their children have grown and grieve the loss of half of their lives to this habit. I am not saying that loving your children is a problem. I am interested in how we can support families to have enough room for the members to pause to be present to their own experience, perceive other and be open to love and the pain that comes in the package.

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One Response to “Love”

  1. Heather Says:

    Which is the paradox you see?

    As for “perhaps if we act lovingly then perhaps the emotional side will follow”, I was wondering if this had been your experience. And if you hadn’t tried it, whether you thought it was worth trying. I suspect from today’s post that you very much think it is not worth trying.

    And yet, we follow the Jesus who washed his disciples’ feet – who did the work of a servant.

    I see this as a ‘both, and’ – we need the heart impulse *and* the practise. And I find that I can train myself in both of those aspects, and that they can feed into each other. Not just that a right heart causes right action: right action (and, indeed, wrong action) can also expose heart and drive me back to Jesus! My heart is trained as I listen to other peoples’ stories and come to understand what it is like to be them – through stories of people I actually meet, through fiction, through true stories I hear on the radio and read on the internet. My actions are trained by serving others – learning what is actually helpful as I observe responses, learning to recognise the ugliness of self-seeking in myself as I create need so as I can be needed or require gratitude by overwhelming with too much giving, and learning my own limitations.

    I know what you mean about women “who have built lives filled with the habitual acts of loving and have lost touch with what they want”. I wrestle with Jesus’ instructions on the denial of self. When I ignore myself, I become miserable, and my ‘acts of loving’ become covert acts of self-actualisation. About a year ago I received a beautiful gift from Jesus. He showed me something of how he sees me. The echoes of that have transformed my interactions with others. I am much less concerned about how people see me, and am able to more truly see them. This makes me bolder in stating the potentially controversial. It also makes me less insistent in my offers of help to people! I have less need to be needed, so am more able to allow them their dignity and remember their autonomy. I am more able to consider the larger scale of my own needs, their wider situation etc.. In knowing more of how I am loved, I have become more loving.

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