Valentines Cards paint love as simple and easy, but I’ve always thought that real-life love is messy.
Tonight I had a chance to be with my family. I thought about leaving tomorrow, gone for the weekend and idealized a loving family night together. What really happened was that we fussed and negotiated about the normal parent-child stuff and ended up apologizing before we headed outside to watch stars before a family skip-bo tournament. I had pulled out twister, boggle, hi-ho cherry-o and was ready for a fun evening. They’ll have to wait.
Oh well, that loving family evening didn’t turn out as I’d planned, but whatever does? As I’m writing this Zach is awake playing with an empty laundry bag. He’s walking around the kitchen. He’s supposed to be heading off to bed. I wanna be frustrated but it is really funny. He looks like a walking laundry bag.
On a visit to my home, a friend brought me a canvas that hangs in our kitchen. It says,
“In this home…
we do second chances,
we do grace, we do real,
we do mistakes,
we do I’m sorrys,
we do loud really well,
we do hugs,
we do family,
we do love.”
That sums up our family. It can be a mess, but it’s a lovely mess and it’s our mess.
This past week I was with a group of teenage students. I told them about the times that Zach used to say, “I love you one thousand.” Then he started saying, “ I love you 1,016,” then one day he said, “I love you like a chicken.” (I’m not really sure what that means. Maybe it means, I love you with all I can think of.) I have shared this phrase with tens of thousands of concert-listeners. This weekend I shared that story and asked the youth to greet each other. Tell someone you’re glad they came this weekend or maybe that you love them or maybe that you love them like a chicken. On the way to the bonfire, Emily said, “I don’t get the ‘I love you.’ I mean tell a stranger or someone you hardly know that you love them. Isn’t that a little awkward and forced.” Well I smiled, I said to Emily, “maybe I needed to say it as much as or more than someone else needed to hear it.” “I get it she said, we could all use a little more love in our lives right?” Even it it’s messy or unexpected or feels a little out of place or strange.
I thought of a conversation I had recently with a friend who I hadn’t heard from in some time. I had called her a few months back with a prayer request and didn’t heard back from her, immediately. Last week, we finally connected. Within minutes of our talk she apologized for not returning my call. First I laughed and said I am a moving target, so you probably wouldn’t have gotten me either and again she said, Celia, I love you and am so sorry I didn’t call you back. It had obviously bothered her more than it bothered me. All I could say was I love you and love isn’t like that. It doesn’t want to make someone else feel bad. It doesn’t want a friend to feel horrible (“aherrible”- as Zach used to say. He insisted adamantly that he had the word correct and you didn’t.) The only way to love is messy. Recently a new friend and I spent an evening together and at one point she said, I’m gonna let you down sometime. It thought , “but I might let you down first.”Isn’t that how life and love are.
Back home, as the lights are low and every one’s asleep but me and my Dog Lilly, I head to the kitchen for a glass of water. The sign in my kitchen catches my eye. I want to grab and sharpie marker and add to it, “we do messes” Love is messy. It’s heart breaking it’s frustrating, it’s complicated, it’s wonderful, it’s forgiving, it’s a million things and more. The only way for it not to be a mess is not to love.
My prayer for you and I is that we that we willl know how loved we are. Because to be honest, more than loves is a mess, I am a mess in spite of it. There is a God who knows all the stuff hidden under my bed and that same God loves me now more than I could ever imagine and loves you the same.
Watch some stars with someone you love this week. Tell someone you love them like a chicken.