sometimes people say “yes” to love.
artists have taken brush and paint to canvas, tortured over a desire to portray the swirling emotion within.
musicians have coaxed minor chords from their instruments, and poets have written hastily, letting a voice from deep inside pour over the words written on a page.
how to describe it, to absorb the feelings and transfer them to another . . . it’s a task that still continues to this day. love is consuming, it’s exhausting, it feels fully unique in every way.
and i have been to so many weddings lately that my mind spins.
it’s beautiful to see what love looks like, splayed across families, in couples. it’s inspirational and sweet.
what interests me the most is what makes people say yes to love. because it’s a choice. it might not always feel like it, when your blood pressure is spiking and all rational thought has fled and every color feels a bit brighter and it’s difficult to breathe and you don’t even want to blink.
but it is.
a choice, i mean.
when people are presented with the opportunity to love, you can say “yes” or you can say “no.”
because the stuff that makes the decision to love easy doesn’t always stick around. sometimes it’s super distant and it’s hard to remember what that was like.
i also know this to be true: sometimes love doesn’t make sense.
my sister and i went to a wedding in Minnesota this past weekend. after a 3 hour plane ride and 2.5 hour drive in a rental car, i changed into a patterned dress in a rest stop bathroom while the rain poured outside. staring at myself in the mirror, i managed to apply mascara. about 15 minutes later it smudged all over my face as tears mixed with the rain flowed down my face.
it was so lovely and i couldn’t stop looking at it.
looking at those two standing up there in front of 150 people, it was easy to see that they loved each other. and it made sense. they were both young, beautiful, kind, and had great things going on in their lives. amazing and supportive family and friends, good health, and a bright future. who wouldn’t love that?
their love made sense.
in my 28 years, i have experienced great love. from my family, from God.
still, i know this to be true: sometimes love doesn’t make sense.
i’m thinking of sacrificial love. the kind of love that doesn’t make it into sexy flicks, because it’s not glamorous, it’s steady. the kind of love that burns with a quiet, confident strength and never, ever gives up.
the moments when love is a choice more than ever before.
my parents have been married for almost 35 years, and it is a miracle. they’re both great, but i am not kidding when i say that. i remember as a kid they would get into some disagreements and i watched them struggle. it was always hard to see, because i knew that there was so much to lose. either one of them could have chosen to walk away from the relationship at any time. but with much at stake, the choice was always the same. they both chose to stay.
and two people who are more different, you could not find. not if you tried.
but they love each other. does their love make sense? not really. my dad likes things organized and neatly put in place. he’s orderly and careful. my mom is outlandish and adventurous. she jumps in with both feet and then tries to figure out how she got there. my dad is always on time. my mom is always late. on paper, they shouldn’t have made it this far.
but sometimes love doesn’t make sense.
it’s a choice.
i think about those of us who have an unstable, broken family member.
if you have one, you know what it’s like. they can go from being wonderfully sweet to being incredibly hard to be around, without warning. the words that come out of their mouths hurt like a gunshot wound, and the tears that fill your eyes burn a path down your cheeks. everything inside of you wants to give up on them, to walk away, to leave them to their destructive patterns.
taking a deep breath, you assess. you draw clear boundaries. you cry again. you ask for advice, you ask for help. you pray.
and try again.
why not give up on them? it’s so tempting. oh trust me, you will want to.
but sometimes love doesn’t make sense.
it’s a choice. and it feels like a hard one, in that moment.
i have been in relationships and i have seen relationships and i work every day with people who are in relationships. and it is not my place to say what anybody else’s choice should be, but i do have an observation.
i think that a lot of people choose to love only when it makes sense.
love gets messy.
love can be exhausting.
sometimes, you really just want to say “no.” and it takes everything inside of you to keep saying “yes.”
please don’t misunderstand me. i have seen a lot of conversation flowing around about professional athletes and domestic violence, and i don’t want to sound like i am condoning abusive behavior in relationships, or saying that you stay in one that’s unsafe no matter what. i am not. that’s not what i think of when i think of love.
in the Bible it states that love is patient and kind and forgiving and a whole bunch of other things that we as humans are not very good at.
i think that’s the kind of love that doesn’t make sense.
that’s the love that lays in bed at night and weeps because the child that you love is making choices that are out of control, and you as a parent have tried everything you can to reach out to them. it breaks your heart, but somehow you still have love for them.
that’s the kind of love that serves an aging relative by preparing meals and doing laundry and picking up prescriptions, even if it means that you don’t get to have much of a social life. you are exhausted, but you won’t leave them alone.
that’s the kind of love that honors your commitment to the person you married, even when they are always squeezing the toothpaste from the middle and they’ve gained 20 pounds and the way they chew drives you nuts. you stick with them because you made a promise, and you’re going to keep it.
that’s the kind of love that says “yes” when it makes much more sense to say “no.”
and it’s inspiring.
i see it.
i see it in foster families who say “yes.” when i call them and tell a sad story about kids that aren’t safe or easy to love and offer to turn their household upside down and their voice hesitates barely a moment before they agree.
i see it in a spouse who curls uncomfortably in a window seat in a hospital room. when i walk in and see that this person has slept all night in a cold room just so that they wouldn’t be far away from their loved one even though that person is on lots of medication and has been sleeping on and off for days.
when i was a kid, my mom had an expression.
there were a few times when i did something without being asked. something good, i mean. it didn’t happen very often, but every once in awhile i had a selfless moment. when my mom was sick, and i brought a cold washcloth and laid it on her forehead. or when i unloaded the dishwasher just because.
she would quirk her head sideways and smile in surprise and say, “that says ‘i love you’ in big huge letters.”
i’d smile sheepishly. because i liked it.
I LOVE YOU.
it’s pretty simple to write. i can type those words in just a few seconds.
but does that really mean that i do? just because i say it, does that make it true?
i don’t really think so.
it seems to me as though the things that “say ‘i love you’ in big huge letters” are the ways that we show love when it doesn’t make sense. when there’s no logical explanation or benefit for extending this love. when it’s downright ridiculous.
i am inclined to think that’s what love really is.
this is how we know what real love is: because Jesus gave up his life for us
so we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters
1 john 3:16