Love, sweet love.
Some of you know that we just returned from our big getaway to Europe. I’m certain even more of you are on pins and needles, like “Tell us EVERYTHING! Every train ride, every landmark, every flavor of gelato!” And I will. In painstaking detail, I promise. There is a black spiral notebook (college rule) with pages and pages of my chicken scratch, just waiting to be typed into a blog post.
But not today. Today I want to talk about love.
When we were on vacation, everywhere we went just seemed to scream, “I AM SO ROMANTIC, SO YOU SHOULD BE ROMANTIC TOO!” Or, at least, they screamed that to me. I wasn’t entirely sure my husband heard. In Rome, we’d be strolling through a piazza in the moonlight and I’d reach for his hand, finding that he was occupied with finding the current US dollar to Euro conversion rate, or navigating us to our next destination. I wondered why he wasn’t pocketing his phone, pulling me close, and insisting we slow dance, right here in front of this massive crowd of tourists, locals, and (likely) pickpockets. I threw more than one temper tantrum over the course of those two weeks because I wasn’t being relentlessly wooed and romanced. I didn’t believe I was being loved.
( Insert love language discussion here, right? In the end, we ended up having plenty of romantic moments, in addition to plenty other decidedly unromantic ones. This, I’m told, is marriage.)
Anyway, fast forward to this past Wednesday. As is my (bad, expensive) habit, I headed out to my car on my lunch break to go and fetch my midday iced latte. As I hit the push-button start, that pathetic , telltale clicking sound alerted me that my battery (which we’d jumped once earlier in the week) had given up for good. Feeling deflated, I poured myself a cup of drip coffee in the office kitchenette and texted Ryan. A short while later, he told me he’d see about getting a new battery.
As I wrapped up my last session of the day with a student, I checked my phone. “Your car has a new battery!” the love of my life had informed me. Oh, that man. He’d left work, purchased a new battery, driven to my office and, installed said battery in the pouring rain.
I started my drive home in my fully-charged vehicle, and made it to the first stoplight before the tears came. Tears of gratitude just spilled out of me the whole way home, because I realized that for all of my striving and failing, I am wholly, profoundly loved by another human being. Actually, MANY human beings. It occurred to me then and there that it isn’t perfect love. Only God’s love can claim that. It isn’t perfect love—it isn’t always what I want it to be or how I expected to find it. But it’s real. It’s real and gentle and fierce. And through provision and grace I can’t comprehend, it is lavished on me, every day.
I held him a little tighter that night.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon, and another tearful drive home. This time the tears were not of gratitude, but of grief. For a high school just a little north of my home, where members of my family played in the band and on the football field when they were younger. For children who may never feel safe at school again. For a world that’s become a scary place to exist. And for mothers and fathers who have to bury their babies. I glimpsed a social media post earlier in the day, where someone had the nerve to say, “at least the shooter is dead.”
My God, what have we become? We are talking about a child. A child who committed (what used to be) an unthinkable crime and inflicted terror and heartbreak, yes—but a child, just the same. A child someone prayed for, cared for, taught to walk and to speak, soothed and sheltered. This was a life that once held promise and dreamed dreams. I would never condone his actions, there is no excuse. But my heart breaks for his pain.
As human beings, we are wired for relationship. We need to love and be loved. We have to connect, and when we can’t, or those connections are severed, we lose the ability to make sense of it all. Hurt, anger, and despair can take over. And hurt people…they hurt people. And once again we are all left stunned and terrified; seeing more lives shattered over someone else’s broken heart.
I cried in my car, recognizing the brokenness and evil in my own heart. I used to pride myself on knowing just the right words to say in an argument to pin my opponent down. I knew exactly how to wound them, to say just the right thing (likely dripping with sarcasm) to tear them down completely. I used to be proud of it. Now I’m afraid of it. Just knowing that meanness exists in me is a little scary. I know it’s there in the first place because somewhere in my past someone hurt me, and I developed my defense.
I’m immeasurably thankful that there is a whole lot more love than hate in my life. But knowing that isn’t so for everyone softened me a bit, last Friday. It reminded me that LOVE is why I’m here. It is more important than being right all the time or letting that guy who cut me off in traffic know exactly how I feel.
My faith tells me that in the end, love wins. What a radical thing to believe in this world full of hate. I hope I live to be ninety. I hope I get to love my husband with half of the tenacity he loves me with for many, many years. I want to be a mother, and a grandmother. But if not, I still get to say I was loved-fully and extravagantly. For all the years I do get, however many they may be, I hope I use them loving. Lord knows I could use the practice.
Whoever you love—hold them a little closer tonight. They might need it more than you think.