It could have been disastrous…..
Love is an interesting word. Often times it is overused or not used enough. It can be used to express an enjoyment of something as in “man, I just LOVE this movie’, it can be used when talking to another person…usually family or friend in saying ‘I just love you’, and it can also be unspoken…in a marriage or in a relationship with our kids where it isn’t maybe said as often as it should be but you know its there. There are at least three different words in the Greek language to describe love and the word to describe the strongest sense of the word is ‘agape’. Agape means “love: the highest form of love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”
Anglican theologian O.C. Quick cautions however that this agape within human experience is “a very partial and rudimentary realization,” and that “in its pure form it is essentially divine.” Quick suggests that,
If we could imagine the love of one who loves men purely for their own sake, and not because of any need or desire of his own, purely desires their good, and yet loves them wholly, not for what at this moment they are, but for what he knows he can make of them because he made them, then we should have in our minds some true image of the love of the Father and Creator of mankind.
If I understand what O.C. Quick is saying than I will understand that it is nearly impossible to love another with agape love. Isn’t that what many of us aspire to do though or would like to think we do? I know in my own life I look at my relationships and have such love for that person and want to believe that I am loving selflessly…but am I? I think that the closest we can get to that kind of love is for our kids or by our parents. Over the years I have received many graces or examples of love that they have had for me and many of those stories will unfold over this series. However…one of the earliest memories I have of an unadulterated form of love, where they truly wanted nothing from me other than what was the absolute best for me is when I almost burned our house down. Okay…that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it could have happened.
I was born in Chillicothe Missouri and when I was about 3 weeks old my parents moved to Kirksville Missouri to finish college. My dad had decided to become a teacher as did my mom although she became busy with my sister and I and her dreams were fulfilled in a different way. After my dad graduated he got a job in Hermann, MO and when I was three we moved, not knowing anyone or having any family anywhere close. Until I was 9 we lived in a rental property about 25 mins outside of town. The summer I turned 9 though we moved to where my parents currently live…and although now it has turned into a beautiful home…it was a total disaster when we moved. So much so that we had to work on it three months just to get it barely livable for when we moved in. But, it was theirs…they were going to own it, raise their family here and saw visions that couldn’t be seen by most for this place. While the house is large there was only 4 acres attached…to us though that felt like 100!! Us kids could do anything and our imaginations were our only inhibitor. We had this shed…kind of like a lean-to that was pretty small. It was open on one side…the perfect place to pretend was shielding you from a wind storm, housing you in a blizzard, the first home on the wide open prairie or even a hideout when you just needed space. It was located in our pasture and the grasses would grow tall around and beside it. I was about 11 or 12 when the following event happened so far old enough to know better. I forget what exactly what I was pretending that day…probably that I was fixing dinner for a caravan of travelers and that we had to have a fire for the kettle of soup but also to keep the impending wolves and wildlife away. We were NOT allowed to play with fire…it was just something we could pretend we had. That particular day though it seemed like a good idea for me to start a real fire. It was dry, windy and of course the prime burning opportunity. You can imagine what happened next…the fire grew and started to spread in the tall grass of the pasture. Before I knew it there was about a 5 foot area that was burning and I didn’t know what to do so, of course like the responsible child I was I went and told my dad. NOT!!! No…I decided that the pain of telling him that I had disobeyed and played with something I knew was wrong would be too great so I decided to run away to the oasis found in the shed. I did a pretty good job of running too…the whole 500 feet that I had to run…because no one saw me. Pretty soon there was a great deal of the pasture burning and my dad was running around, stomping it out and asking my brothers to bring water and help. It took every bit of what seemed like eternity at that time to get the fire out. I, all the while, was crouched down in the shed crying and watching/praying that I wouldn’t burn down the house and everything my parents were working towards. Eventually my dad figured out it was me who started the fire and started calling for me. I stayed put…afraid of his wrath but more than anything embarrassed beyond belief and mortified that I could have done something so horrendous. I don’t know how long I hid out. It wasn’t dark when I went to the house so it probably was only about a half hour but it felt so much longer. My parents were believers in corporal punishment but that day, when my dad saw me, he didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t take me in the bathroom to spank me, he didn’t yell at me or even walk away from me…no, he hugged me. I don’t think that I can put into words the feeling that swept over me in that moment. I still felt guilt for disobeying but I knew, in that moment, without a shadow of doubt, that I was loved and forgiven. I knew that what my dad wanted for me in that moment was to forgive myself, to not carry the guilt or weight of what I had done. It was completely selfless, it wasn’t about what he needed to say or do, it was about me…his daughter. When I look at my boys I feel the same kind of love, the same kind of desire. That their life is valued above mine.
But…when is it okay to say “no…my value is worth more than this? I love you…I do not hold my desires as a measure for your love, for your attraction, for your devotion. I do not love you expecting anything in return but this treatment of me is not acceptable.” It seems to be contradicting ones self to say I am something to be valued, to be treasured and yet also to give love without expecting anything in return. I will write more on this later…but these are the questions heavy upon my heart. Questions of love, respect, value and forgiveness and how I, as a believer, shows that to others without expecting it in return? Or…can I demand value and respect while still loving someone unselfishly?