What is the most surprising thing about love?

What is the most surprising thing about love? It was a question posed in the last magazine, “Real Simple.” I love that magazine. I rarely take the time to read one, unless I am getting my hair done or sitting on an airplane, but it has become one of my favorite magazines. Its subtitle is “Life made easier:” Now who among us doesn’t need a little bit of that!

I enjoyed many of the responses included in the article to this question about love. Some of my favorites were: “It can come from someone you barely know. Stephanie, NC”, “It happens when you least expect it. Marianna, IL”, “How simple it can be. Robin, ID Everything, Courtney, MA.”

I asked Max, who is 9, how he would answer it. He said, “You never know what’s gonna happen.” Which I thought was a wonderful answer. Real Simple should have printed his! About 5 minutes later, as we were about to turn onto our street driving home from school, he asked if he could play outside with his friends after he finished writing his spelling words. I said, “yes, sure.” He chuckled and said “Mom, you are beautifully surprising!” I loved that answer for love. Love is beautifully surprising. I couldn’t keep from laughing.

Isn’t that it? Love is beautifully surprising. I am filled with it’s wonder at its depth, its diversity, its perseverance, its endurance and its sheer will. I have seen so many things happen in the name of love, both incredible and detrimental. I do revert to chapter 13 of I Corinthian’s as a guideline.

A couple of years ago while at elementary camp in Texas with our friends, we had the joy of experiencing camp worship, led by campers. One group did a skit as the message about the camp theme: “the fruits of the Spirit.” In the skit, someone would behave a certain way that was pretty much contrary to one of the fruits and an angel watching would speak to them and ask them a simple question: are you gonna be loving? …caring? when they got to the trait of kindness.. they said “kindful?” I loved it. Full of kindness, loveful–full of love. I loved that thought. It might not be a real word, but it made its point.

We have a choice to be full of something: envy, small minded things, hurts from the past that should have been forgiven long ago, mistakes we have made. We also have a choice to answer a different way maybe even to surprise ourselves. Some of our choice boils down simply to letting go. Letting go of ourselves, so that we can be open to love.

A few days ago I saw a man quietly holding a sign on the corner of our downtown main street that simply said, “Easter is all about Jesus.” As he held it, I was mindful of the funeral a friend asked me earlier that day to help plan. It was the service remembering a friend of hers named Dawn who had just died. During the last 18 months, Dawn has let go of everything. My friend, a mom of 4 boys, has had reinforcements from her dear parents and husband that enabled her to care for her friend Dawn who has been ill all year. Last week, her friend completed her battle and died silently in the night with my friend and another of their friends standing by. As my friend and I sat at one of our local coffeehouses and talked about her dear friend Dawn, I thought of the man with the sign. Dawn liked to say, “don’t postpone joy!” Don’t postpone joy. What a breathtaking way to live and what an inspiration. What an amazing sign to hold up in life.

I’m almost ashamed to reflect on some of the signs I have held up at different times in my life, “I don’t like the way I look. Life isn’t fair. I’m overwhelmed. I need a break. I’m lonely. I don’t know how to love you. I need to surrender.” The list goes on also with others like, “be yourself, enjoy the journey, we are never alone… whatever your name is-I love you, anything is possible” We all can make a difference. Love is beautifully surprising.

From the perspective of Holy Week, I think Jesus was beautifully surprising. He constantly served as a reminder to those around him. I can think of a couple of signs he carried, “I love you” and “love each other.” He did about everything he could to get that point across. He was willing to be used as an example. There are moments when I think of his willingness to go the distance, the ultimate sacrifice, all for love. I’d like to think I would do anything, for anyone. Jesus certainly sets that up with a living example. If I am willing to read the text from Matthew literally, when am I going to have a real chance to lay down my life for a friend? Maybe there are several ways to do that. Maybe it can show up in the laying down of my will or my desire to have the center of attention or my spending my time and money for others or my attention to what are the real priorities, or my discipline to say whatever comes to my mind when I am mad or hurt or my using my time wisely or thinking of others before myself or my constantly asking myself, “does this look like love, am I living love fully?” We have to be in constant evaluation of the signs we carry.

One has to come to grips with how we are loved even when our signs are wrong. Though my behavior never measures up to how I believe one who follows Jesus should live, I can sleep at night knowing that there is a God who loves me with all of my shortcomings, who measures how I love and live not by how many acts of kindness I do, but by what’s in my heart.

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