Hear me out. I know it’s Valentine’s Day. I didn’t intend to write this week’s word about love…really, I didn’t. I had another idea in mind. But then something happened last night and now real love is like a big flashing neon sign in my head and I can’t write about anything else. What happened exactly? Well, goodness knows there are enough reminders that this time of year is about love. You can’t go anywhere without seeing red hearts or hearing about flowers or diamonds or even heart-shaped kitty treats (in case your cat is your Valentine).
Well, my experience wasn’t commercial at all. It was in the safety of my own house, but it wasn’t necessarily safe. I was simply praying – you know, talking with God – about a difficult person in my life (don’t worry, it’s not you). I was saying things like, “God, you know what she did to me” and “God, you understand why she is so difficult.” And then God had the nerve to say, “Chris, your heart is ugly and hateful toward her.”
“MY heart? Ugly and hateful? Doesn’t he know what she did?” I took time for his words to sink in. My first thought was to resist such a thesis, but my second thought was, “he’s God and he might know what he’s talking about.” So I listened further and he led me to 1 Corinthians 13.5, “Love…is not self-seeking.” And then I started to understand…
It’s easy to think of love as a transaction, like an even trade: we love and we get love back. Business works this way. The reason I keep going to Ruby Tuesday is because Ruby gives me a sumptuous turkey burger and I give her my money. And so it is with whatever your business is: a hair salon, software and related services, medical care. There is a fair exchange and in the end, both parties are satisfied because they’ve received due value. Without such a system, business would break down. But let’s call it for what it is: good business, and let’s not call it what it isn’t: love.
I wonder how many of us operate in life this way, all the while calling it love. It’s like the teenage boy saying to his girlfriend, “I love you. If you loved me, you’d do it.”
As adults, we’re quick to discern the self-serving motivation in his statement. But in less subtle moments, are we any different? Do we serve in order to receive something back? Do we complement someone in order to get a complement in return? Because if we’re thinking of ourselves – seeking something for ourselves – then it’s not love; it’s good business.
Regarding love as one way revolutionizes how I relate to my difficult person. In fact, it frees me up to treat her extraordinarily, because I’m not waiting around for her to do the same for me – one day it might come, but it might not (it probably won’t)…and that’s okay.
That’s real love, not always safe, but real.