I always wondered if Tina Turner sang that song about love being a “secondhand emotion” because of the disillusionment she felt after the break-up of her tumultuous marriage to Ike. Or maybe that’s the general feeling of a wounded and embittered multitude of people who have truly be-gun to wonder what love has to do with anything.
If I were a gambling woman, I would bet that love is the most popular song subject of all time. Even if the word “love” is not in the song title, the major-ity of lyrics touch on the subject somehow.
Can’t you remember back to the old paths when you had a favorite song that reminded you of “him” or “her”? Goodness gracious, I acted the fool every time LTD’s “Love Ballad” would come on the radio in ninth grade! By 10th grade, it was Heatwave’s “Always and Forever” that my friend Cindy and I played over and over again while we dreamed about our boyfriends. My fickle teenage fancies found me besotted with a new love song the next year, screaming like a bobby-socker at an Elvis concert when the current favorite would come on Z-93 or 97.1.
(Please tell me you other girls did the same thing.)
We wrote “love letters” as early as elementary school, already thinking we knew what the “L” word meant. By middle school, we proclaimed to be in love with whomever we were “going with” at the time—problem is, that “love” only lasted until we saw someone cuter in gym class.
High school brought us closer to full adulthood, so true love in the mature, romantic sense was very possible. I’m sure there are some of you readers who have been happily married since high school; some of you may have even been sweethearts from childhood! But for most of us, true love was an elusive creature to capture and an even more slippery critter to hang on to.
Despite our youthful dreams and ideals, most of us got hurt by what we called “love.” When someone told you they’d love you forever, but now 20 years later, they feel nothing for you, what happened? Did they lie? Or does love sometimes just go away? Can it be killed by bad things that hap-pen in a relationship?
And if it does fade or go away, does that mean maybe it wasn’t real in the first place? And if that’s the case, then is true love really attainable for the masses?
Questions, questions—you can see I’ve got a lot of them. I’ve failed misera-bly at love before. But I think I do have a few answers. I believe that love is the strongest force in the world—the presence of which is able to bring in-credible joy and healing, the absence of which can bring despair and hurt.
More than anything, I believe we throw around the word “love” too care-lessly and casually. And I believe the only really true love is the love of God. When that is the foundation of the romantic love we hear about in love songs and fairy tales, it is lasting and fulfilling.
That’s the love that is patient and kind. When things are going well? Yes, but even when things are going wrong. It is easy to show love when life is sunny—not so much when the storms rage.
Some people think they prove their love by their depth of jealousy over the other person. But the Good Book says true love is not jealous. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and keeps no record of being wronged. Seem impossible to you? Rare, perhaps, but not unheard of.
I knew of a God-loving woman once who took in the children of her hus-band’s mistress. I also heard of a lady who invited “the other woman” in her husband’s life to move in with them when she needed help; the husband ended up realizing how much he truly loved his wife. I don’t think I could do this. However, you must admit this shows an incredible amount of a love that keeps no record of wrongs.
True love—not the soap opera kind that morphs into hatred by the next TV season—is unconditional; its action is not halted just because someone doesn’t act right or do things perfectly. Whether or not you are a Christian, you must admit the Bible-type of love is a pretty sweet deal—a love that never gives up, never loses faith, endures through every circumstance.
And love is also full of mercy. I remember once when a pack of big dogs at-tacked my little beagle, Rocky Balboa. It was one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen. After my wounded dog was rescued, he was so terrified that he would snap at anyone who came near to try to help him—my gentle, loving dog who had never tried to bite anyone before. But I didn’t hold that against Rocky or discipline him for snapping at me. I showed mercy and increased love because I knew he was hurting.
You know, people are that way, too. Sometimes people who are wounded, scarred or hurting will snap at us or say hateful things that perhaps they re-ally don’t mean. We can choose to react in the same hateful way, thinking that we would never act like them so why should we show mercy to them?
Or we can choose to rise above the flesh and give even more love in an at-tempt to heal and nurture that wounded soul. That is the kind of love people are looking for. And it’s the kind that is supremely rare, because it’s a love from above that is not the shallow sort of emotion we misname “love” in the songs we croon or the sappy movies we cry over.
If you find a person who can get over himself/herself enough to extend this kind of divine love even when you are perhaps not so pleasant, you better grab him or her and hold on. And in the meantime, may we all try to show this type of love to all—especially those who have been wounded and need to heal. Love, and its resultant mercy, is the best salve of all.
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.word-