For better or worse, I’m the sort of person that cannot bear to see other people distressed without doing something about it if it is within my power to do so. I saw a young man tormenting a young woman by wanting to be too close to her and touching her with her making an obvious effort to get away to no avail. So, I pulled the young fellow by his shoulders a bit away so that he would give her at least a few feet of personal space rather than being too close for comfort. In trying to explain to the boy how not to pursue the pretty girl he was unsuccessfully trying to chase, I realized that my own efforts at courtship have often been probably just as clumsy, just as unwelcome, and just as unsuccessful as those of the boy, and I have lived a quarter century longer than him to no good result as far as that is concerned.
Today’s sermon was about the subject of love. For obvious reasons, this is a subject of personal frustration. For one, the speaker (as is common) framed much of the discussion on the subject of marriage. At least at the end, where my face must have looked particularly unhappy during much of the message, there was at least a comment about those who would like to be married someday (if we could ever find a suitable and interested person willing to marry us, at any rate), but most of the message focused on agape love and the need to be more than fond of and attracted to a spouse. That is true, but there are many people for whom that would be more than is the case. I am by no means an expert on love, but I know the sort of man I want to be, and the sort of gentlemanly acts of self-sacrifice and outgoing concern for others (even those who do not seem particularly fond of me). It is hard to tell how obvious it is that my love is not always of a selfish kind for others, but all we can do is set a good example and hope that others will notice and understand if we lack the ability to explain ourselves well.
It is at least of some comfort, even if not much, that God Himself struggles to make His love known for us. Yesterday I complained, a bit bitterly I suppose, that I had not been called to give a prayer for a while. Although I tend to be busy and not very “available” and even though I get a fair bit of attention (sometimes more than I want) playing in the ensemble on stage every week, I like to feel as if I’m not being totally ignored when it comes to speaking opportunities in services, even if it is only for a couple of minutes or so. I found it somewhat refreshing, an answer to a concern, that I did not have to wait long before I had that concern addressed. It allowed me to ponder a bit about the fact that some requests are easy to grant, and quickly granted, while other requests take much longer and are much more fraught with unsatisfactory journeys. Yet love does not mean an absence of difficulty, merely that one is concerned about well-being and also seeks to act in ways that serve that well-being.
Knowing our own well-being is difficult enough, and those of others is harder still to know. Even knowing, or believing that we know, our interests and the interests of others is only a first step. Even acting in the best interests of others, a still more difficult task, may not be sufficient to communicate that regard effectively. In life and in any kind of relationship, even that of a friend or acquaintance (much still more difficult and more intimate kinds of relationships), it is not only what love is given, but what love is felt. Someone can love us with all their heart, generously and unselfishly, but that love does not have to be recognized nor reciprocated. We may love those who are totally unworthy of that love, we may love those who are so starved for love and affection that a friendly love for them can blossom into something far beyond what we wish or intend, through no fault of anyone’s. Others may suck in the love and remain like the Dead Sea, entirely unchanged for all of the effort that is poured into it. Let us love without ceasing, but also be sensitive to the sort of love we are given, so that we may recognize its kind and intensity, and respond with consideration of others, to the best of our modest abilities.