I love love.
I’ve always been a hopeless romantic and always will be. Honestly, what’s not to like about a good love story? I will always root for true love to win in the end. Romance is important and valued in my life. But that is another blog post for another time. Love is so much bigger than the sweetness of butterflies and passion.
Over the last three years, I have decided that my favorite word is “love”. I always get weird looks when I say that because it tends to come off as cheesy and I’m accused of being a “basic white girl” but hear me out, darlings. I am so confident that love has the power to break down barriers that we deem unbreakable.
When I lived in Vienna, life was really hard. Bad situation after bad situation shoved me into a corner that I couldn’t get out of and I was the saddest I have ever been. I could have been stuck in that corner by myself, but I wasn’t, because love was so much more powerful than my sadness or the unfortunate situation I was in.
One of the most valued things God blessed me with was the gift of my friend, Faith. I am an American Christian and Faith is originally from Iraq and her whole family is Muslim. For years Faith and I have deeply loved each other despite our differences. In fact, our differences are almost overlooked. She has lovingly welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her culture and vice verse. We’ve gotten in trouble for talking too much during class, consumed way too many chicken nuggets together, recorded covers of songs, talked about boys, gone shopping, done henna, eaten sushi, played slender-man, watched movies, and belly laughed our way through school. This friendship was my saving grace in an extremely difficult time in my life. Faith is one of the biggest reasons why “love” is my favorite word. We’ve had disagreements but never fought. We’ve had confusing conversations about our different religions, but the love and respect we had for each other was so much more powerful than our disagreements. To the world, our different nationalities or religions are enough to say “I could never be friends with them” but love kicks that barrier down and says “I couldn’t be who I am today without them”. Because of this life-changing friendship, I will never see people the same ever again.
That’s the kind of love I believe in. That kind of love is the type of love Jesus instructed His followers to walk in daily. That love is so powerful that it takes the hurt and broken by the hand and guides them to the path of restoration. That kind of love is how I want to forever live my life.
My first roommate, my darling Christina, is from Korea. We were young (16yo), ignorant on how to live with others, and had a list of cultural differences that we didn’t even know about until we learned the hard way by offending each other on accident. Sometimes we didn’t understand each other but we loved each other so deeply that in the end, fights and awkward confrontations were just a minimal piece of our friendship. We were heartbroken to know we wouldn’t be living with each other anymore. I’m talking about some really ugly crying at the end of the school year. That’s the type of love I believe in. I believe in ugly-cry-love. That kind of love says “forget it” to the things we don’t understand about each other and holds tightly to the care we have for what we do understand.
These friendships are a tangible example of a 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind…) type of love.
My first year in America was confusing because I didn’t see this kind of love. I was seen as stupid for my misunderstanding of American culture and disrespected when I tried to defend myself. I was called a heretic when I disagreed with someone on spiritual matters and ignored when I tried to speak in the name of love. I witnessed fights and name-calling among fellow Christians on campus arguing over free will. My heart breaks to think that people who believe in the same Jesus as I do would treat myself and others this way. This is not the kind of love I believe in. I refuse to believe this behavior can even be called love.
My heart was heavy after a year of this. But love is more powerful than hurt. After only a week in my hometown with my closest friends, the power of love kissed the scars on my heart and rejuvenated my soul. This type of love is so powerful that it was able to unwind a year of hurt and replace it with empowerment and encouragement. My dear Maddy and Analysse have been my best friends for so many years. The kind of love they have showed me stretches across oceans and refuses to let go despite inconvenience. That kind of love kicks distance in the face and says “this is worth it”. This is the type of friendship that Proverbs 17:7 talks about: “A friend loves at all times”.
I’ve decided that love is so much more important to me than being right or agreeing with someone or being the smartest person in the room. I could care less if I know how to answer every theological question you may have, but if I know how to love you the way Jesus told me how to, I will be doing my job. Loving others the way Christ told us to is less about pointing a struggling friend to an answer that sounds nice and more about being present when there is no reasonable explanation for what they are going through. This kind of love screams and shouts and jumps up and down and praises our good God when good things happen in each other’s lives.
This year, at the most perfect time possible, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love” and I could rave about it for hours but I will leave you with this quote that so resonated with the cry of my heart:
“This is why we live and breathe: for the love of Jesus, for the love of our own souls, for the love of our families and people, for the love of our neighbors and this world. This is all that will last. Honestly, it is all that matters. Because as Paul basically said: We can have our junk together in a thousand areas, but if we don’t have love, we are totally bankrupt. Get this right and everything else follows. Get it wrong, and life becomes bitter, fear-based, and lonely. Dear ones, it doesn’t have to be. Love is really the most excellent way. One of the best parts of being human is other humans. It’s true, because life is hard; but people get to show up for one another, as God told us to, and we remember we are loved and seen and God is here and we are not alone. We can’t deliver folks from their pits, but we can sure get in there with them until God does.” I believe in that kind of love and I believe it is powerful.