About love- and why love is more than just a feeling.
"So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
(Luke 11, 9, NIV)
"This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
(Jeremiah 33,2 ff, NIV)
"To receive an embrace An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other. They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness. I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not."
( Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. )
My dear friends,
I remember well a conversation with my best friend. Frustrated I was, searching. We were sitting on the terrace in front of her house, she heavily pregnant with her first son, who is now already 24 years old.
"It's just the way it is, Grit," I said helplessly; "the only thing I really want and that I really know how to do is love and heal through love. But I don't earn money with that, nor does it secure my life. Sometimes I hate that. Really. What is that worth in our world?"
I will never forget her answer. Grit is not particularly emotional, she is rather closed. But at that moment it burst out of her, aghast, almost angry, as if her heart would break over my words.
"You really don't know, Bille, do you? You have no idea what kind of impression you leave on people, what you radiate, do you? How secure people feel with you, how accepted, what kind of warmth you convey, right? No, apparently you really have no idea! Don't you ever say that's not worth anything again, you hear me?"
"Don't you ever say it ain't worth it."
Love has become something that could be called "nice to have" in our world. No, indeed, money cannot be made and the world cannot be won with a loving heart. You can't sell it away, you can't stop it from loving, from feeling compassion or from seeing the good in the other person even if the other person doesn't recognize it her- or himself. You can't make love lose hope, wish the best for the other and suffer when you see your own beauty being rejected, how the other person is "getting done" - through self-rejection and self-accusation, through addictions, through self-neglect or hardness that seems to enclose the whole person like a prickly protective armor.
Love. Everyone sighs. Yes, we all want to be loved. And yet it seems that we can neither grasp it nor grasp it. It is an inner experience, something for which we run out of words and which remains so vague that we prefer to explain it away or objectify it.
But what is love actually? How does love express itself and what does it convey?
Love is a decision.
First and foremost, love is a decisive "yes" to another person with all that he or she brings to the table.
Weddings and with them the marriage vows are probably the clearest expression of this "yes", meant to exclude all back doors and doubts, the promise to stay with this decision for life. The focus is set, come what may. "Yes, I want you. You, your strengths, your being, your heart. Yes, I want you, your weaknesses and conflicts, your mistakes and your fears, your story and hurts. Yes, I want you to go with you in one direction, to learn with you and to stand by you when you fall, when you doubt. Yes, I want you to become fully yourself, to nurture and support you, to enrich you and confess to the world that we belong together. I trust you enough to entrust myself to you, with all that I am, all that I bring, to share my innermost, my outermost, my everything with you."
This decision is not one to be made lightly, rashly, it is far more than a romantic feeling.
It requires appreciation, respect, attentiveness. It requires recognition of being different, the willingness to accept that the goals, the desires can diverge. It requires gratitude and the will to give in, to remain capable of compromise. Above all, it requires faith. The one who loves must believe. The one who loves must hope and be willing to endure pain and times of not understanding.
Love means growth.
To love means growth. When I love, I trust that deep down there is a bond that will not break. It does not mean that this bond is always visible. Whoever lives in this illusion will awaken evil. Everyone who is married, everyone who has lifelong friendships, knows this. Nor does it mean loving the other for what we have in common, nor for what he gives us. Communities of purpose- are not love.
Love - in the best case - becomes a stubborn commitment to the goodness of the other person and the decision that one has made, not attributing the bad, encouraging the good.
Love is confronting. I am challenged by the otherness of the other person - in friendships no less than in relationships and marriages. I repeatedly question myself and my claims and opinions. In the desire to love, uplift and respect the other, I confront contradictions. Learn to accept that there are different ways of looking at the same points of view and perceptions. Confront where these views do not uplift but harm the other. Not because I want to change my counterpart, not condemning, but releasing. The goal of love is always that my counterpart finds more freedom, more peace, more healing.
Love does not use.
I had a work colleague many years ago. She had a huge garden and in painstaking detail she had planted spring flower bulbs in a huge meadow in the fall. She rejoiced immensely when this beauty burst forth in the spring.
A little neighbor girl was visiting. And suddenly she jumped into the living room, her arm full of torn crocuses and tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Beaming, she held the flowers out to my colleague, who at that moment was not expecting anything good. And right: her garden, her effort of planting, it was destroyed in a few moments. That which was to bring joy in the long term, now lay uprooted in the arms of the girl. She wanted to give her joy. Bring joy. And yet she had unknowingly missed the mark. What saved it was the pure child's heart. The motive.But would an adult have done the same...and how often we do, unknowingly, unthinkingly.
Love waters and nurtures.
It does not tear out, it does not use. It asks about the motives of the other. it asks how it can bring joy. It is interested in the other person. Love chooses to be involved. Love gives joyfully, engages with the other person, and grows between persons and never as an end in itself.
Jesus does not say in vain that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is in the midst of them. Love necessarily needs a counterpart, develops in interstices, like a bridge that connects hearts.
God is love. Therefore, God needs to be known.
I think we can do a lot without ever really knowing him. Like fans who think they know everything about their star, but never ask about him.Consuming him and being horrified when this "star" complains about loneliness. We are used to consuming, and we Christians consume God to an extent that is frightening. He loves to give. But often we claim to know Him so well that we don't ask for Him at all in specific situations. A whole community, a whole world is looking for spiritual gifts. There is hardly a debate that is more fiery than the one about the Holy Spirit and how he expresses himself, how this relates to spiritual gifts and who has which gift and why. The Holy Spirit is touted like a superpower.
The Holy Spirit, however, is a person. The Holy Spirit is God, and furthermore, we have been told that we will receive answers to questions. From Himself. But do we ask? Do we ask about God? " Father, what do you want to accomplish through me today? Father, I don't understand this passage in the Bible, will you explain it to me?" " Oh gosh, Jesus, I don't understand it. I don't understand how you could have let me get hurt like that. Why? Why did this happen? It's not you, is it? That's not who you are! I feel abandoned by you, where were you?" "Lord, how do you see my counterpart? I don't understand right now how he/she acts. What is behind it? Give me your look on this person. Your wisdom. What do you want to do through me?" "Jesus, I don't know what to pray, you pray through me, let me step back and you take over. You know this heart. Let me be a blessing."
"Ask, and you will be given. Search, and you will find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
You know, that's what it's all about. Imagine a man living in a house on a mountain near a town. There is a lot of gossip about him. He is said to be rich. Influential. Others say that this fame makes him want to be constantly praised for his beauty, strength and power. If one does not do it, then he becomes angry and unpredictable. There are entire associations that have established certain rules of conduct on how to approach this man, and those who do not comply with them die on the way to the garden gate. He once wrote a book, they say, and you have to implement word for word what it says. The problem is, there are different associations, and they all contradict each other in interpretation.Well, that's plenty of understatement. In fact, the clubs fight like tinkers.
But what is the truth?
Well. The five friends, the three question marks- little heroes in children's books, they would go to the house, curious, a little scared, not knowing what was happening, and ring the doorbell excitedly. And then the door would open. The person on the mountain in the house, in all his power, would rejoice. Rejoice that someone would finally come and ask for him. Asking them to come in. Answering all the stormy questions. Listen to what they have to say. Grader and confirm.
But going to him takes courage.
I don't know anyone who would have gone to him and ever wanted to go back to the club, though.
It's worth it. It's worth asking for him.
This week I offer only one prayer, which I hope will be said by many. A prayer that opens the door to the heart, to true devotion and trust.
I want to guarantee you that it will be heard and beyond...answered.
"My FATHER, I leave myself to You, do with me what pleases You. Whatever You may do with me, I thank You. I am ready for everything, I accept everything. If only Your will is fulfilled in me and in all Your creatures, I desire nothing more, my God. Into Your hands I commit my soul; I give it to You, my God, with all the love of my heart, because I love You, and because this love drives me to give myself to You, to place myself in Your hands, without measure, with a boundless trust; because You are my FATHER." (Charles de Fouceault.)
Bible scriptures: Holy Bible, New International Version, quoted with www.bibleserver.com
Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf: A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging. Continuum International Publishing Group, 1997.
Charles de Fouceault: https://www.charlesdefoucauld.org/de/priere.php
Background scriptures: 1.Joh 4,8/ 1.Joh 4,16/ Mt 22,37/ Joh, 13,34/ Mt 7,22/ 1.Cor 12/ 1. Cor 13 and more.