I had a very strange thing happen to me recently. Maybe the incident wasn’t that strange but the impact it had on me has lingered and burned its impression on me with a sizzle. The story starts like normal, I was singing. My songs flew from my lips and swirled around until catching in the curl of the ears of those nearby. One of those ears belonged to an older woman. I would guess she was in her late 70’s but her smile has me wondering if she were younger. Later I was seated at a table with this same lady and she asked question after question. Not the normal question, only about my music but questions about me. She was digging and looking for Sarah, her shovel a long string of questions passing through a smile laced mouth. Even later, she found me again, a couple more questions and then softly as she turned to walk away, again with a smile, she said, “See you later, Sarah. I love you.”
I love you?
Uhhhhh, is this lady my grandma and I’ve forgotten what she looked like? Who tells a virtual stranger that they love them? Oh those three words rolled around in my chest tumultuously. What was making me so emotional and confused about those three words?
While I still have quite a bit of pondering to do about this verbal encounter I have made myself sit down to write what has been pushing to the forefront of my thoughts.
Doesn’t the bible say to love?
Love your neighbor as yourself- Leviticus 19:18
Do I do this? No. I love myself very much. I dress myself in my favorite clothes (because I know it makes me feel creative), treat myself to an occasional pedicure (because I know that my toes are embarrassing and the pedicure makes me less self-conscious), I buy myself my favorite books (because I know how much I love to read), I give myself a breather when I get stressed out (because I know that quietness is how I get regrouped), I let myself frequently bury my face in my daughters neck where I can inhale her sweet scent (because there is very little better in the world that makes me happier than this), I encourage myself, cheer myself on, and bear the fact that many times I let myself down.
I could go on and on with the ways that I love myself, each act of love is a result of knowing myself and knowing what makes me feel loved. So if I look at this verse and stand it beside the ways I love myself, I see that I fall short. Time and time again I get too busy to really know the people who come into my life. Or I allow myself to curl up behind a shield of shy/introvertedness.
The things around us, media, movies, books, commercials, newspapers, friends, family, and even ourselves show a flawed example of love to each other. We take in, and assess these flawed examples of love and then begin to question it. We hold others up to this standard of loving others as you love yourself but we can’t live up to the standard ourselves.
Reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 sometimes makes me feel like love is impossible. It says,
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I can’t do this. Sure I can in moments throughout my life but I know I have not born all things. I have not always resisted resentfulness. I have not always relinquished getting my own way. I have not believed, hoped and endured all things. So how can I say that I love at all? Or those that I know, close to me, who have failed at these things, why do I still know that they do love me? Because we know that we are not perfect. No one expects perfection out of another because we know it is impossible. But what is possible is that there is a standard of perfect love. There is a bar set so high we aren't even able to see it. A perfect love that abolishes indifference.
When we read 1 John 4:16, “God is Love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him,” we know we have hope.
As the creation of our Savior/Creator we are displaying bits of our likeness of Him when we love. We are being who we were created to be, even though we are not yet capable of being constant. Like a dark field with fireflies scattered, their brief flashes of light illuminating the space around them temporarily and sporadically we are showing bursts of love but are yet unable to make it a permanent illumination. But, perhaps the older we get, the longer we have followed after Christ, the more we are like our Creator, the more we are able to keep on this flickering light of love. The more we can endure, the more we can give in, the more we can hope and believe and rejoice and bear, the more we find ourselves being patient and kind, tossing aside our arrogance and rudeness and envy. Perhaps as we follow Him, our quick youthful step grows slower and more shuffle-y but our likeness to our Savior grows more noticeable. Maybe we find ourselves telling someone we just met that we love them, and just maybe, we mean it. But in the meantime, we can depend on that Savior/Creator to fill in the gaps, to love those around us who we hurt, who we neglect. We can depend on Him to love us. Because we are told that this perfect love, the one without any gaps or starts and stops or in between times of neglect, is the love that gave His only Son so that ANY who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. His is a love that follows through into eternity.