Friday, October 9, 2009

Love is...

...many things, some of them wonderful, and some of them not. This is another post that's been stewing in my head lately, because we attended a really lovely wedding a few weeks ago. I don't know what it is about weddings that nobody can find a different Bible passage to read, but the one that always comes up is this one:

“Love is patient; love is kind
and envies no one.
Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude;
never selfish, not quick to take offense.
There is nothing love cannot face;
there is no limit to its faith,
its hope, and endurance.
In a word, there are three things
that last forever: faith, hope, and love;
but the greatest of them all is love.”

And many of these lines bother me. I mean no disrespect for the Bible, or to anyone who likes the verse. It's lovely, and in some lights, it's true. See, love is not always patient. Few things are less patient than the headlong rush into love. Love is certainly not always kind. It might be to the loved one, but to the lover rejected, it can be quite cruel. And said rejected lover certainly envies whoever the object of his or her affections chooses instead.

Love is boastful, and conceited, and quite rude. Who hasn't bragged about how wonderful their lover is? Who hasn't been proud to strut about with their lover on their arm, admiring the dashing figure they cut? And, well, love is tied very closely to lust in many cases, and lust is quite rude. Love is indeed selfish, because at the base, love is about how someone makes you feel and your response to that. Love takes offense more easily than most other emotions. It might forgive, eventually, but the offense is there. Love is touchy, and fragile.

As for there being nothing love cannot face, well, it doesn't tend to do very well with loss, betrayal, or separation. Love surely does have its limits to faith (ask the spouse who's been betrayed, or the child whose parent left) and to its endurance (love, like so many natural things, can't exist in a vacuum).

This is really a lovely verse, and I certainly have nothing against the sentiments. Love is a great and powerful thing. But, like all human emotions, it is different for every person. For some people, love is a great, empowering emotion that leads them to do powerful good in the lives of others. For certain people, love can turn you mean and small and angry with the fear of losing it. Love is something different to each of us, and there are dozens of kinds of love. Romantic love, familial love, platonic love, love of self, and on and on the list goes. Not all of those are grand, sweeping types of love, nor are all lovers grand, faithful, sweeping people.

In the end, I believe that love has as much strength and as much power as the person who feels it. It can bring out the very best, purest motives in a person, and some of the basest ones. And once in a very great while, it can change your whole perspective and make you do something entirely different, and maybe a little better, than you would have been able to manage before. Love can be a consolation, a comfort, and a refuge. But it can also be a knife in the heart. In each situation we deal with every day, love is something different. It's present, and it is great, and it is powerful. But like people, love is flawed, and messy, and real.


Donna Lee said...

Love believes all things, hopes all things and bears all things. Love never ends. I used these words in our wedding ceremony because I believed them then and I still believe them now.

But then I still believe in miracles in every square inch....

Roxie said...

There is a difference between love and need. Love makes you generous. Need makes you selfish and grabby. A husband who is giving his love to his wife is not going to grab the next lightskirt that flounces by. Need and fear make you mean and petty. Love pours out and spills onto everyone nearby. Need abhores seperation. Love makes the best of it. I think the verse defines what love is, so we don't confuse it with need. Or sex. Love and sex go well together, but please don't believe that they are the same thing.

That's the trouble with getting old. Once you have it all figured out, no one wants to listen to you.

Rose Red said...

Interesting post. I think the passage is describing the ideal, and because humans are all flawed, the absolute ideal of love can never be achieved fully. But I think the other things you describe are not actually love. They are lust, or fear, or need (as Roxie says)or a multitude of other emotions - there might be love involved in there, but it isn't the driving emotion. When love is truly the driving emotion, it comes the closest to this ideal (or the one your mum refers to). Thanks for making me think about it, because this verse has always troubled me a bit too.

Bells said...

What a lovely, interesting reflection!

I think that's one of the nicest verses in the Bible. And I say that as someone who doesn't have much time for that book.