In one of his letters St. Paul wrote that love is patient, not self-seeking, and that it keeps no record of wrongs. He also indicated that love always assumes the best about the one loved and that such love can never stop. The apostle argues that true love gives without ever expecting anything back in return.
So how often does that ever happen in real life? Certainly most of our friends and relatives are quick to remember every mistake we’ve ever made, and if we become too annoying or boring, they will quickly find a reason to abandon us. If we offer to show our friends the slides of our latest vacation in Texas, they are likely to make any number of excuses for why they can’t come over. And if we happen to just pull out the projector as they are sitting down to the dinner we made for them, they suddenly take ill or find some other reason that they need to run out the front door. Sort of like that girl in high school who kept telling me she had to wash her hair. She surely had the cleanest scalp in the history of the world.
How many of us have someone in our life whom we are constantly doing stuff for? It seems like they are always in crisis, always having a flat tire, always needing a sink repaired, a computer hard drive defragged. We’re always watching their children, or lending them “twenty bucks till payday”. We’re always there for them.
But the first time we ask them to do something for us, they can’t help. “I’m sorry, but I’m all out of cash just now.” They’ve made plans. They are too busy, not interested, or something came up. They are never there for us and they always have very reasonable excuses for why they didn’t get back to us. We find ourselves forever giving and never getting anything back. We wonder why they have no problem asking us for help, while it is unreasonable to even hope for an acknowledgment, let alone a thanks. And we’re completely unfair to think that they should help us with some project or problem. In fact, half the time it seems to be unbearably burdensome for them to even talk to us, except when they have a need, in which case we must drop everything and listen to their every complaint.
Kind of like how it is when we take care of a baby, eh?
We get up at three in the morning with them, but when we ask them to mow the grass, they just cry and insist that we feed them or change their diapers instead.
Our children, therefore, are the one area of our lives where true love becomes manifest. We can’t help but love them unselfishly and without reservation. Several years ago, before she became a teenager, I was watching my middle daughter’s elementary school Christmas program. Well, Winter program. It was a public school, after all.
In any case, she has been learning how to play the violin for the previous three months and this was her first public performance. It was not a solo; rather she was with a group of about a dozen other eight year olds and they played various sorts of, um, winter music. Now clearly my daughter is a wonderful violinist even after only three months and it was a joyful experience to listen to her play. But in order to enjoy my daughter, I had to put up with the playing of all those other students. In fact, my daughter’s vital role took up only the first five minutes of the program. There was an additional fifty-five minutes of other people’s children playing various instruments. And then there was the group singing of a variety of music, including a point where the kids did a sing-along with a recording of Alvin and the Chipmunks. But because I loved my daughter, I endured it all.
And not just me. The room was filled with a huge gathering of adults who listened in rapt fascination to every moment, who applauded enthusiastically with each song, and who dutifully videotaped the whole performance. Watching all the videotaping, I couldn’t help wondering whether they would ever actually haul those videotapes out again and replay them. Surely all those tapes simply go directly from the camera to a box labeled This Year’s Winter Program, which is ever after consigned to a dark closet.
My wife and I took our videotape and burned it to CDs in order to share our daughter’s first violin performance with all our friends and family.
Obviously we hoped our friends and family would love us in the way St. Paul describes.