Love is the Final Fight
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I met a man in Starbucks this week. He was staring at Levi, with such longing. We struck up a conversation, and I learned he had two boys at home. After the second baby was born, his wife passed away. He said, “I wish my wife was here to hold my sons.” The ache in his voice called to something deep inside me.
Can you believe we’re all just walking around, living life, carrying on through impossible circumstances?
I carry stories in my heart, my own and other’s who have shared courageously. Stories are the reason we press on, aren’t they? All that pain otherwise hidden, surfacing to give us light, to encourage us with hope. We need each other desperately. Of this, I am sure.
I’ve been living in squalor with two sick people. Not really, but I do love the word squalor and there is nary a time to use it in a blog post. My husband is the best patient on Earth. He just needs to be fed and that’s it. Most wives complain about their husbands moaning and groaning when sick, but Cody just needs alone time and food. On the contrary, my son also needs food (ALL THE FOOD I HAVE IN MY BODY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED AND HOLY), and constant attention. I cannot even consider putting him down, but I do, and he cries, and goes on living while I go to the bathroom.
Well, I’m still standing sister, and some days, that’s as good as it gets. I think about the young man at Starbucks and the beautiful stories I know, men and women who have overcome unimaginable odds, and I gain confidence that I can handle this day. I don’t know about tomorrow sometimes, but all I have is today.
Nayyira Waheed has got that right.
Love is the theme of this year for me. I am learning that love is preposterous, absurd, radical, generous, difficult. It’s like the hardest workout I have ever done, only worse. For the record, hitting the water at 5am in a crew boat preparing for a regatta, and then greeting those same humans at 5pm for running and weights is the hardest fitness I have ever done. Oh to be young again. Sigh.
Love is full of forgiveness. I forgive you life for offending me. I forgive you friends for your shortcomings. I forgive you baby for your constant dependency on me. I forgive you God when things don’t go the way I think they should. I forgive you husband because I vowed that I would. I forgive myself for how I have hurt others.
Love says, I will not resent you, hold anything against you, count and store your wrongs or stand proudly before you. I will not be jealous of your success, and I will not celebrate injustice in your life, even if I feel like maybe, you deserve it. I will extend mercy, prefer and honor others, and I will allow anger to fuel my pursuit of peace. Love says, I will always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere, because love never fails.
It’s impossible, you see, because love is honest, vulnerable, and aren’t we all a little terrified when the mask comes off? Here’s the thing though, I believe we can only practice this sort of love with others who are also practicing this. None of us have it all together, no matter our appearance. We save our deepest vulnerabilities for safe people who love us and share our values.
Cody sent me a beautiful quote this week: “Sorry does not equal trust. Sorry equals forgiveness. Changed and different behavior equal trust” Dr. Henry Cloud. Sometimes, we have to love others, but we do not have to allow them into our heart, if the result is constant fear, insecurity, and unnecessary power struggles. We also do not have to remain in relationships where we are the only party willing to make changes. There is no trust in that faulty foundation. We cannot achieve control of others; seeking to change someone is a pointless fight. I can only change myself.
And let me be real with you, most of the time I can’t even do that, but God can work with a little humility and a little love, so I do my best to give that to Him and to others. Like it or not, it all comes back down to love. I need it, you need it, we all need it. Love is the highest pursuit, not for my own individual gain, but for the benefit of others.
Love at our dinner table, love in our discouragement, love in our neighborhood, love in our pain, love in our jail cells, love in our insecurities, love in our creativity, love in the center of our fear, love in everything we do. I ask you, what else will ever really make a difference? Cornel West said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
I prayed with a man in jail recently. He stepped up to the bullet proof glass, picked up the dirty phone and when I asked him how I could pray for him, he said, “I don’t even know, man, I am looking at life.” Tears streamed down his face and mine. I said, “I don’t know how to pray for you either, but here we are together with a God of grace, so we’ll do the best we can.” I shared the gospel with him, this man who thought God would never forgive him, never accept him again and he said yes. Life in prison or not, he won’t be in that place alone. He will go with God.
Lord, help us give our lives to the things that count. Love is challenging me; love is changing me. How about you? Who has changed your life with their love? How is love challenging you? Where are you wrestling with love? I pray you find God right there wrestling with you. How he loves you friend.
“Love is the final fight.” John M. Perkins