Remember this 1984 song made famous by Tina Turner? It has a catchy tune, but the lyrics are depressing—What’s love but a second-hand emotion, and who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? The pop tune is misrepresenting this thing called love, which expresses itself in many ways across many experiences.

Let’s start by observing the behavior of little ones. When they fall or get a bump, they come running for a kiss or hug. This is an interesting phenomenon, as the affection they receive does not make the discomfort go away, yet somehow seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Why is that, do you suppose? I have a theory. Deep inside their little hearts, these expressions of love convey a powerful message. Someone is there who cares, and they will not be left to themselves to fend off the harsh, cruel world around them. It doesn’t end there.

Consider the student or new employee who fails miserably at a critical assignment. Instead of rejection, she is reassured that mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities and, by the way, you’re doing great. It’s quite likely this young academic or recruit will not only succeed but exceed expectations in the journey ahead. Why? Because they are loved differently. They experience being valued, respected, encouraged. They have a cheerleader on their side who sees the best in them.

Then there’s adulthood. Stuff happens. How about getting passed over for the long-awaited promotion, or worse yet, when the well-paying job is unexpectedly terminated?  The disappointed worker arrives home feeling anxious and perhaps embarrassed. Instead of condemnation and rejection, however, he receives an embrace from a loved one, confirming what was secretly hoped for—that we’re in it together—a soothing balm to a bruised heart. Love shows up in these situations and beyond.

Love says you are essential to me; you matter. Love holds our hand when we’re wounded, forlorn, and broken-hearted; walks alongside us in the ugly places—through all the expressions of anger, tears, and screams of anguish; has our back when others suggest it might be prudent to turn away; accepts our differences and limitations because we matter more than our opinion; means we struggle to hold on to the relationship when the hard stuff comes, and it would be easier to let go; says we’re sorry when we’re wrong and when offended; willingly, whole-heartedly forgives the slights committed against us; is not afraid to convey the truth, holds us accountable, and demands we grow into the person we were created to be. Love is expensive, hard-won, and born out over time. It calls for sacrifice and dying to self. Yet, what we ultimately gain surpasses the price we pay—a heart overflowing and full of joy.

I think the song had it all wrong. Love has everything to do with it and begins with a decision to commit to the other.  Then, we persevere on the journey, celebrating and enjoying the blessings we receive.

In this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ, who was born to die for us. A sacrificial lamb, yes, but also, a flesh and bones person who loved deeply. In John 13:1, we read: Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (NIV) Did you catch that? He loved them to the end. He knew their weaknesses, flaws, failures, and those that were to come; yet, he loved them to the end. May we follow his lead as we love, albeit imperfectly, the special people whom God brings our way. — Visit amywildmanwhite.com

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