What is love?
(baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.)
We really like love. We like the idea of it. We long and hope for it. We ache when it’s not there and break when it is taken away. But I guess that’s the thing, can love be taken away? Can love be removed? If your father rejects you and removes his love from you, he is breaking the sacred covenant set before time that a father loves his child. Him not loving you is wrong, in every sense and feeling, but if it could be removed, was it love at all? If you can drop someone and walk away without looking back, or even look back and decide they’re not worth your return, did you ever love them? Is love, by definition, unbreakable?
I’m sick of love being diminished to a decision to love. Sure, that is part of the initiation of love, but it should grow so far beyond that that the question of choosing to continue loving that person is not a reoccurring thought. And, at the beginning of a love relationship when you make that decision, is it actually love at that stage? Or is it the decision to walk down a path toward love with someone? Recognizing that you grow every day in it, just like you walk further and deeper into the woods, but you are not yet abiding in its deepest depths?
I guess all of this is ruminating at the forefront of my thoughts because I’m starting to recognize a feeling, like an aroma wafting through the breeze, that I have rarely felt before. And it’s changing everything.
We celebrated our dear friends’ first anniversary this weekend. We watched their wedding video and then they insisted on watching ours. Both were odd sensations. We cried watching both videos, one only one year back and one three years past. But the further in time that video was, the foggier it was. For my video, it was like watching 2 strangers, and it was awkward to watch them proclaim love for each other when they were so young. Their love was young, but that didn’t mean it was any less important. Just, young. Untested, unproven, unchallenged. Looking back at my husband and I, it seems like we barely knew each other that day, standing glistening in the rain with hope as a candle’s flame in our eyes. We loved each other, sure. But our love then is so different than our love now. And yes, our love now is still only three years old, but it still feels so much stronger, more substantial, time-tested and approved. You change when you get married. The chemical make-up of you changes, and now I barely recognize myself back then. Even our friends married for one year seem like such different people than they were a year ago. Their anxieties, fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams, ambitions. The things that drove them and drove them crazy. It’s all different now. We laughed and cried with these characters from a past chapter in our lives. We know them well, but we know them less each year as they fade back and we walk on.
I was going somewhere with that… Oh, yes.
Just like I can look back at a love for my husband that was very real, yet I can say it was weak, like a young sprout poking up through the earth, I’m looking back on a lot of relationships throughout my life and noticing a similar theme. In comparison with old love, young love seems so small. Not just romantic love, but friend love. Although the love you share with a new friend is sweet and exciting like a new book, it is so different from the love shared with a family member who held you since you were born. You know that old love like it knows you. Just the sound of their laughter brings you home, and sometimes you don’t realize you were homesick until you hear it.
That was another experience I had this weekend. I walked back into a group of old loves, people who knew me ages ago, and I knew them. Walking toward them before I was even among them, the breeze brought me the sound of their laughter and every muscle in my body relaxed, ones it seemed had been tightened for years. In that split second I breathed and it felt like the first time in too long. Like recognizing the smell of a long-beloved house, my whole demeanor changed in that instant. I’m a different person than I was then, and the huge chasm that stood between the me they knew and the me I am today was terribly daunting. Maybe that is what kept me away all these years. I knew that each step I took toward this me God was growing me toward was a step further from the one they knew. I couldn’t bridge the gap. If the goal of love was to be known by the object of your love, that ship had sailed. There was no going back.
This weekend was a huge step for me, one that I was afraid would be heartbreak upon heartbreak, painful memories stacked atop each other threatening to pummel me into the ground. I met something very different though. I walked in as me, the me I am now, knowing full well they couldn’t know that me. Instead of seeking to fill that chasm I accepted it and let it be. I knew I missed years of experiences in their lives too, and in the time we had there could be no filling of those gaps. But they, in many ways, were the same and it didn’t bother me. It meant I knew how to love these people. I knew them years ago and those ties trailed behind us like thread on the floor and followed us to this moment. This moment where I can look in your eyes and smile and nod and actually be able to hope that you know what I mean. That I love you, that it’s alright, that it will be okay, that you’re beautiful to me. Like family, there are things you may not like about each other, things that drive you crazy or things that threaten to separate you forever. But at the end of the day, none of those things change blood. They’re still your family through and through, and oddly enough, that brought me so much peace. All those strings we attach to love, all the conditions we place on it, fell away. When you look at it from above it all seems 2D and you can say “I love you just the way you are and too much to let you stay that way” and it seems like love for you to say that. But when you’re down in the depths of it, when it becomes 3D and towers over and around you, you see that many of those things are completely unconnected to love. I love you. I hope you grow, I hope you see you don’t need to hold onto that thing, I hope you walk on and dance and live. But all my hopes for you do not set an expiration date on my love for you. It doesn’t say I’ll love you for 3 years but if you don’t get to that point by then, I’ll throw you out. I’ll love you then too. The way you do that may still drive me crazy, but its so completely unrelated to how I love you that I can’t even say them in the same sentence. I love you, so so much. Your life, your heart, your smile and laugh. Every part of it. The sound of your laughter brings me home.
Love is a long and winding road. There are many out there I chose to walk down that road with. The road doesn’t stay easy, there are bumps and breaks, places we might have to let go of each others’ hands. I’m gonna keep on heading toward Jesus and letting Him write my story, you might not. Or you might and it might look totally different than mine. But how could I ever decide that you aren’t worth my time? You aren’t a project to me. Loving you does not mean I can’t love someone else too. If loving you isn’t “working” (gross) that doesn’t mean I take my time and allocate it on a project that will “work”. What. Yes, people stop hanging out together, they can’t be equally yoked together in everyday life because they are heading in such different directions. But none of those things have anything to do with this new love I’m realizing. I’m tasting it and, in comparison with everything else, nothing else seems like love. It seems like I never have loved people before. We may not hang out, we may not talk, you might hate me and I might not be able to fix that. I hope you can hear this though: I love you. Honest to goodness, deep yearning, love. Hoping for your best and breaking when you break. You may not be able to see me, we may not be able to walk together right now. None of that changes that my heart aches for you, in everything, and I love you. I don’t have a better word for it yet. For all those who I’m no longer walking life with, know I love you. Your name and face enters my mind at least every week or two. I’m not joking, if you’re curious, ask me. My heart has never been far from you. I labor in prayer for you with all of His love that He’s working within me, and slowly but surely, His love is becoming my own. I love you out of every depth and pocket of my heart. I want your best, I’ll speak the truth, I ache for restoration, but I rest in the hope of praising our Jesus together when all is made right and all the breaks from our young love pass away. And maybe, just maybe, some of us will find each other again before then, and we’ll get to watch this young sprig grow old, and we’ll rest in the shade of the tree we grew.