Before I explain what I mean by my title, I feel the need to give some history to this post.
I firmly believe that the ways we love others and the ways that we feel loved by others is shaped from an early stage. The ways we observe love in all its forms in our lives are foundational to the ways we put it into practice, so here’s a little insight into how I’ve seen/viewed love in my short 21 years.
When I was very little, I saw the love my parents had for each other and for me and I learned to love family and friends unconditionally. When I was in Sunday School, I was taught about the love of Jesus Christ and I learned that my mistakes were not a measure of God’s love for me.When I was in middle-/high-school I saw the “love” (perhaps it was true, but definitely not in most cases) in all the dating relationships between classmates, and I learned that I needed a significant other to prove that I could be loved. At my Christian college, one of the prevailing (though not necessarily correct) views of love is that if you love someone, you get married. I’ve come to feel, at times, that unless I get married, I can’t experience love to the fullest.
Anyone with a similar experience to mine will probably be able to empathize with me in the confusing, conflicting views of love you can get from all different places. There are a few things I like to think I’ve gotten right, but there’s a whole lot more that I know I’ve gotten wrong over the years.
Two days ago, however, I saw one of the strongest, most encouraging, pictures of love I’ve seen in a long time. Two days ago a benefit was held in support of one of my uncles who about to undergo some extensive medical treatment. The event was put on by members of the church that their family attends along with others who are close to the family as well. While I was driving out with my parents, I had no idea what to expect but I was blown away when we pulled in. The amount of people who came out to support and encourage my uncle and his family was just amazing to me. What was even more amazing, I thought, was that I barely knew a percentage of these people.
I realized that I have gone through life not seeing the relationships my family has with people beyond our little circle of aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, etc. Here was the man who taught me to fish, who was always showing off a new magic or yo-yo trick, and had encouraged me to drag out my violin/guitar at EVERY family gathering since I was little just so he could play along with me. Here he was, surrounded by a crowd of people I had never met. I never saw these relationships outside of our own family and I was never able to see the love extend beyond that. Chalk it up to to geographical distance or whatever, I just never knew about it. But when I saw all those strangers gathered in one place to help my family, I wanted to hug each and everyone of them personally. I only knew and interacted with a small percentage of the people there (all family), but it was an amazing experience to take a backseat and observe. It was one of the first times I could look at love up close without being too personally involved. I didn’t need to be personally affirmed in any way to see love all around. I’m not even going to apologize for how cheesy this all might sound because this was such a radical change in my perspective on the topic.
I suppose that what I am trying to say is that from this, I have learned that love is so much deeper than having someone tell you that every day. It’s more than having a date on Friday night or having a ring on your finger, and it can be found in more and better places.
Perhaps I was a bit overemotional that day, but I found myself holding back some tears when my uncle got up in front of everyone and simply said “This is what love looks like.” And I couldn’t agree more.