Each day of the week I have a different list of people that I pray for. On Fridays I pray for my family. As I worked my way through the list today, thanking my Savior for each of these people He has blessed me with, I was struck by the incredible examples of love that I have been given throughout my life. Not just that my family has shown love to me as their daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc. Any essentially functional family loves their own. What I mean is that they have shown me true, godly examples of what love is really about.
I think about my dad's mom. What an amazing woman she is. She will take anyone who needs a place into her home. I've seen her take a homeless man who was found living in her church and give him a roof over his head and a new start in life. I've watched her take in so many that others would have little or nothing to do with. She never seems to concern herself with what she will get out of it or whether or not they will ever pay her back or even whether or not she will be safe. She just gives of herself no matter the cost and no matter the individual. Each week she drives her van to pick up food to take to her church food pantry that she runs. My Grandmother is in her 80s. She has arthritis and carpel tunnel syndrome, yet week after week she's there. She is carting and carrying and lifting and praying and SERVING. That's what she does. And you know something, in all my years, I've never really heard her complain. I've never seen her attempt to get something in return. She just gives and gives and gives until there should be nothing left. And yet, she is so rich! She has so much joy and love and life and energy.
I consider my mom's mother. Over the years, we've all teased her and laughed a bit at her because she can really be very ditsy at times. In a lot of ways she seems so very weak, so very incapable. I know the truth though. This woman is STRONG. As a child, I watched as my grandfather's mind and body were taken away by Alzheimer. I saw my grandmother take care of him at home for as long as she possibly could. I saw her stand by his side when he had no idea who she was, when he would threaten to throw her out of the house because she was a stranger in his eyes. I saw her visit and sit with him every single day at the nursing home once she could no longer care for him on her own. She could have said, "No, this is too hard to watch" and moved on with her life, but she never did. She stayed there by his side until he went to be with Jesus. She did it because she loved him. She loved him when he could no longer feed himself and when he lost control of his bladder functions. She loved him when he had nothing left to offer her in return. In my eyes, that is real love!
I see now one of my aunt's going through this same thing with her husband. He still lives with her and he still knows who she is, but everyday he declines. She has to help him to the bathroom and dress him and remind him that the food in front of him is for eating. I see the pain in her eyes when she looks at this man who was once so strong and so intelligent now struggling just to figure out how to sit in a chair. And yet, she presses on, and I know she will continue to do so. Why? Because she knows what it means to love.
Today as I prayed, I think I saw that I still have so much to learn about love. Love isn't always pretty. It's not really about warm fuzzy feelings. That is certainly part of it, but it's not the whole. Love is work. It's sacrifice. It's giving when you may get nothing in return. I look at my life and see so many areas where I fail at love so often. Areas where I need to be practicing love every day. When my mom says something that I don't like and I snap at her, when I'm harsh and ugly with the children in my class, when I know someone needs my help but I make an excuse because I just don't feel like it, when I talk about someone behind their back (as though I am so much better! What rot!), and so many other things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails
It's a familiar and often quoted portion of Scripture, but there is a reason for that. It's important! Imagine what kind of world we would live in if we all truly learned to live by these verses!
Lord, show me how to love like that!