Hands down I prefer the obvious type of love that brings home Trader Joe’s flowers, the type of love that the postwoman delivers – a handwritten note on letter press stationery, the type of love that holds my hand or wraps tiny arms around my leg, or that tells a witty joke so that I can’t help but throw my head back and cackle. This is a total no-brainer. We love to love.
And if you’re reading today in a place of hopelessness, I really think this kind of love is what you need. Or if you are walking alongside a friend who is in the valley of the shadow of death, I think this is a perfect prescription for how to love them. Extravagantly! …and perhaps with your quiet loving presence.
There is sweet mercy for the times that love needs to be gentle and kind, bottom line.
That’s not exactly who I’m writing to today (but my heavens, do I love you and I assure you that I have been there myself.) I wish I could wrap up a bunch of antique blush spray roses and a hug. I’m also not speaking to the careless tossing around of misdirected and misunderstood prescriptive opinions that throw salt on an open wound. Speaking the truth in love is anything but careless and accusatory.
How about the less fuzzy and flashy ways of love? The verses after “love is patient, love is kind…”? How are we doing “rejoicing with the truth”? Do you have loving truth-telling friends, and how willing are we to humbly receive words of correction or loving criticism? Love tells me when I have a fat speck of spinach between my teeth, right? But what about the safety-net of friendships who will tell me, not always what I want to hear, but what is most needed?
I bend toward the ditch of affirmation, both giving and needing it myself, hugs for thugs and prizing harmony; at times to the detriment of what would be helpful if even sometimes painful. Those moments when I’ve just had an area of weakness or sin pointed out, it stings. “Oh dear, is my pride sticking out?” I don’t need someone who will assuage my anxiety and anger, telling me what I want to hear, justifying it and puffing me up. “Hey girl, there’s some discontent stuck between your figurative front teeth, might wanna snag a toothpick on your way out. Only because I love you.” Haha. If only it were that easy.
In fact, I’ve had this type of conversation recently. My husband and I celebrated an entire decade of marriage last week, praise God. (Ten years? We were children when we got married, how did my parents sign off on that?) It was, in fact, fuzzy wuzzy most of the time. Ice cream in gardens with twinkly lights and sangria in a poolside cabana for the highlight reel. Cut to sitting on the couch at home after three days of regular life and crabbiness and needing to work out some conflict. At one point in the dialogue he stopped the rhythm and suggested,
“Have you considered that you might not be as approachable for correction as you think?”
Like a wasp sting to my heart. But he was right. Ultimately it wan’t so much as a tiny dagger of poison, but a wise and lovingly administered small dose of healing medicine. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy,” says Solomon. We still laugh at a time when my dad taught me how to drive and on one of my first terrifying (for both of us) drives he kindly mentioned to me, “Megan, you may want to check your blind spot. You’re about to change lanes into a Porsche.” I may have been embarrassed or indignant, but his words delivered kindly, were ultimately safety for me. The danger of sin, the blind spots I cannot see, can be lovingly exposed and then healed by the mercy of Jesus.
I praise God for the context of this verse, lest we execute what Brittany called last week “spiritual malpractice” and throw around harsh and critical words. Love, even in conversations delivering hard truth, is always patient and kind and not self-seeking. There are plenty of guiding principles to consider in the whole counsel of scripture, such as taking the log of a problem out of my own eye before removing the speck of sin from my neighbor’s. But how about for today, we ask God for and cultivate friendships where truth is lovingly spoken and received. Or maybe we go even one step further and invite trusted and knowing friends to fill this role together? Let’s take that spinach out of each other’s teeth, girl. That’s love.