I've been thinking about love again, which is always good.
Last summer, during one of our church group sessions on our Vermont missions trips . . . actually, if I may indulge a parenthetical, these group sharing sessions seem to always go awry, they rarely if ever work. When prompted to spill your guts on command in an artificial group setting, no one usually takes the bait, and I think that's fair. But in Vermont, everyone was pretty good at sharing. It was a mystical dumb-founding occurrence that was clearly the result of some crazy Holy Spirit workings. Anyway.
One of my friends shared how she never felt loved, that people would say, "Oh, I love you, I do, I love you!" and she was skeptical that they even cared at all. She said that they seemed mere words and she was desperate to know they were backed by truth, reality, action. And I felt horrible, even though I figured her criticism probably wasn't directed at me, that I hadn't been able to make her feel secure in the knowledge that I did, I do love us. I felt second-hand horror at the hypocrisy, how could the people we came to minister to know we were Christians by our love if our own members didn't know?
So I wonder, are we supposed to believe people when they say they love us?
You know that I love you, boy. Hot like Mexico, rejoice.
Doesn't loving people back mean believing in their love? Isn't love at least three parts trust? Like in a marriage, all this consternation comes when one person starts to doubt the other's love for them. It's an ugly soup of mistrust. [Or, at least, that's what I see in the movies.] But what is equally sad is the sop who continues to take their spouse at their word when they say "I love you" . . . even up until said spouse walks out on the relationship. [Okay, I definitely do not have a specific movie in mind here!] Of course, trust ought not be blind, but, they say love is blind.
So I think now, along my friend's train of thought, when my friends, acquaintances even, are laughing and merry, and toss out the occasional thoughtless "I love you" that is mostly unprecedented by relationship and experience, how much stock ought I put in the declaration? "Do you? Are you just saying that? Do you know what you mean? Are you saying what you mean?" I feel as thought any evaluation of their seemingly irreverent announcement is inherently judgmental. Can I judge their hearts? Some people you just don't know well enough for their actions to back up their statement. I can only assume it's impossible, in these situations, to tell externally what's true internally. So, do I take them at their word, or do I brush off their "I love you"s off?
I guess the real answer is that it doesn't matter. It is not the love from people that fills me up and makes me whole.
I wonder how to live "I love you" so people never wonder if I mean it . . .