Saturday, April 2, 2011

What Is Love?

By Cynthia Edwards 
An essay in the book Creative Spirit Musings

February is the month of chocolate hearts and sentimental Valentines, but it is good to remember the true nature of Love and how it can transform any life and any relationship. My text is from I Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love emanates from a heart that is at peace with God and itself. The serene Mother, the wise Father, are images of Love. Love is an axis of joy running through the center of the human universe, keeping it faithfully on course. It is infinitely attractive and those who are like little children are drawn to this magnetic Love. It is devoid of fearsome consequences, or shame. It embraces and smiles on the other.

Love does not demand or cajole. Love knocks on the door of our hearts and waits to be invited in.

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Who hasn't been tempted to envy success, triumph over the guilty or feel superior to those who differ from us in opinion, culture, class, education, or even dress sense? But Love grieves at such attitudes. Love rejoices in the other's good fortune and generously applauds their achievements. Love does not make enemies or dance on graves. Love does not detract from others by secretly speaking against them or plotting their disgrace.

Love is not rude or self-seeking.

In its essence, Love is the most non-egotistical state of being. The ultimate sign of Love is the willingness to lay down one's life for others – and this does not have to mean "unto death," although it might. In an everyday context it means preferring the other to one's self. A baby cries when it needs milk and comfort and the parent rushes to care for these needs. But the baby must become a man, and put childish ways behind him. He must be transformed into an adult who can lay aside his own needs and tend to the people in his sphere of relationships first.

Love does not sacrifice another to achieve selfish ends. Love does not seek to dominate, but to lift others up. Love is the state of true transcendence from self.

Love is free … to love.

Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Our world is so desperately in need of this kind of Love. Love turns the other cheek when it has been struck. When compelled to walk one mile out of its way, Love goes meekly and then offers to walk an extra mile. Love doesn't riot in the streets or howl for blood when it is offended. When we were under the Law, we kept records of rights and wrongs because we knew no better. The law condemns the guilty and justifies the innocent but does not change people's hearts. Love forgives and forgets. Love prays for its enemies.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Which of us does not sometimes feel a sneaking satisfaction when someone else is hurt or suffers a downfall, whether deserved or not? Yet Love does not desire the Day of Despair. Love feels the other's pain and responds with mercy and compassion. Love gathers the hurt, the sorrowing, the pitiful, the wrong-headed, the lost and folds them in protective wings, like a mother hen with her chicks.

Love stands up for truth and speaks it clearly, but does not use it as a weapon, to ridicule or triumph over others. Love is a beacon lighting the way towards God.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

We try so hard to make up for our failure to Love by drawing attention to our other achievements. But it is no use, for if we have not Love, we are nothing. We must be loving neighbors and show compassion whenever and wherever it is needed. Love is steadfast and enduring, which means it does not make exceptions or take a hiatus in special circumstances. And that's good, because we need Love all the time. Love is the eternal spring of hope in our hearts.

Love never fails.

And why did it have to be
A heavy cross he was made to bear?
And why did they nail his feet and hands?
His Love would have kept him there.*

* Lyrics by Michael Card: "Why?"

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