Monday, September 23, 2013

Love is Reciprocal

In Robert Fulghum’s book, True Love, he tells the story of a letter confiscated by a second grade teacher. The letter said this: 

Dear Billy, if you don’t say you love me an walk to the bus top with me I will kill myself and beet you up. I love you an wan to marry you soon. Susy.

                The letter was shared with a minister 15 years later - at a rehearsal dinner the day before Susy married Billy. During the ceremony, the minister shared the letter with their wedding guests and, in her vows, had Susy repeat these words: I, Susy, promise you, Billy, never to hurt myself or beat you up. 

                Summer is a popular time for weddings. Yet in the midst of the pageantry that surrounds many nuptials, is it possible love gets lost? Beyond that day of commitment, does ordinary life sometimes wear us down?

There’s a scripture in Jeremiah 2 where God says, you aren’t in love with me now, but I remember a time when you were. I remember the love of your betrothal. (when we first promise ourselves to someone – like Susy and Billy)

The scripture goes on to compare that lost love to people trying to fill broken pottery with water while right behind them sits a beautiful fountain of flowing water from which they could drink as much and as often as they want.

In relationships with people and with God, we sometimes get caught up in the dailyness of life or caught up in focusing on ourselves – forgetting that love is reciprocal. True love between friends, family members or couples is at its most powerful when both sides are giving and both sides are receiving.

The first and greatest command is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

In another scripture, Paul says to the Romans, Take your everyday, ordinary lives – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around lives – and place them before God as an offering. (Romans 12:1 MSG) It’s difficult to fathom that my “ordinariness” could be a blessing to anyone . . . yet isn’t the core of any relationship and the depth of any love built on the foundation of our ordinary selves?

                In his book, Where All Hope Lies, James Van Tholen says, “God is not holier than thou – He loves us so much that he wants to meet us at our level. That doesn’t mean He’s lessened His holiness or lowered His standards. Instead, He’s made his love accessible to the average, ordinary person like me and like you.”

                Such a concept of love is intriguing . . . whether applied to God or Susy and Billy or you and me.

Carole Patrick is Chief Development Officer for the Stephen Center, where she's given daily opportunities to pursue social justice while assisting those who are homeless, addicted and mentally ill. In previous years, Carole has also served as a professor and academic dean at various universities. She holds a bachelor's degree in public relations from Drake University, and a master's and doctorate from the University of Oxford in the integration of psychology and theology. She is a proud mom to her daughter, Hannah.