Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Courage to Love

Lizzie, over at A Dusty Frame, demonstrates courage in loving and sustaining her husband through some difficult trials, including his incarceration. Her example has prompted me to consider the place of love in our lives and the need for us embrace love as a motivating force in our lives.
To truely love takes both courage and effort. During the last days of his mortal ministry, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the time preceding his second coming. Concerning that period of time he tells us: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24:12) Where is the evidence of the wilting of love the greatest? It is found where we should expect love to be strongest. On the one hand we see a generation of young people who hesitate to marry, choosing instead to pursue a series of casual relationships. On the other we see unprecedented numbers of families breaking down, husbands and wives abandoning one an0ther and pulling the foundation out from under their children. People are afraid to love. Maybe people are afraid of love, real love, the kind that binds us to one another with cords so strong that we sorrow in another's sorrow, suffer in their suffering, rejoice in their rejoicing. Love that can lead two people in the dawn of their lives to commit to one another for all the years ahead. Love that can then sustain them through all the sorrows, challenges, and human failings that mark the course of our lives. Love that inspires us to bring children into the world, to offer even the gift of life, and with it accept the burdens and responsibilities of parenthood with its sleepless nights, long days, and even potential heartache. Love that, in the sunset of life, still binds us to spouse, children, grandchildren, and future generations we may never see, while at the same time its strands tie us to parents, grandparents, and other loved ones gone before and make of death not only a time of parting but of reunion.
What are the characteristics of such love? In thr Bible, this binding and motivating love is sometimes called charity. Paul describes love of this type in 1 Corrinthians 13:4-8, 13
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
My mother likes to say "no-one can change without a source of pure love". Of course, the ultimate source of pure love is our Savior, whose atoning sacrifice on our behalf stands as the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Certainly when we understand that he has taken upon himself not only our sins but our frailties and suffering, and that he has paid that price not only for us but for every member of the human family, we can see that the way is open for us to take those frightening steps of change that are necessary in our hearts and lives. Unfortunately we live in a world that can easily overwhelm us with harshness and loneliness, and with incessant clamor that makes it hard to hear the voice of divine love. When this happens, our hope is to be warmed by the echo of that love found in the words and actions of those who are close to us. Love is both the guideline and the safety net that can allow us to move forward when our own faith and hope might be dim. It give us the security to move beyond self-imposed protective walls and barriers, to allow our own hearts to soften. The love between husband and wife, between parent and child, between true friends, warms us in a cold world and draws each of us closer to the true source of love and light.
As we fill our homes with light in this Christmas season I hope we can also fill any dark places in our hearts with the light of love.

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