Our small group has been studying I Corinthians, and we have been camped out for a couple of weeks in chapter 13. The love chapter. Most people are familiar with this passage even if they are not churchgoers or Bible-readers, as it is a favorite reading at weddings. For centuries people have been expounding upon this passage, and writing about love in general. So I am not sure I have anything new to add. But if you will excuse the wandering and random thoughts, I would like to share some things.
This morning I woke up thinking about the infinite quality of love. That is, we have an infinite ability to love, because love is infinite. Specifically I was thinking that when we love more, when we add more people into our love circle, love is not divided. It is multiplied. Love does not run out!
Ask any new mother who is holding her second (or third, or fourth…) newborn. She is overwhelmed with love for this new little one. But in no way does it subtract from the love she has for her first child, or for her husband for that matter. She has enough room to love both children, because love never runs out. Unless we willingly turn it off.
In my work, I see a good number of blended families…second, or third, or fourth marriages. Think of the different family configurations these scenarios can present. A common problem I see is something I will call turf wars. I’m brining my children into this relationship, but I am not going to love yours. Maybe I don’t even like yours. It is as if loving these new children, or sometimes adults, will somehow diminish one’s love supply. Sometimes the children of the new spouse are seen as a threat to the new marriage. I don’t want you to continue loving your children. You must now love only my children and me. And sometimes it works the other way. The children make no room to love the new stepparent. They may not want to share their biological parents with these new outsiders.
Or consider friendships that are jealously guarded. There is only room for you and me (or our chosen group). No one else gets in. Learning to love a new friend does not mean I no longer love you.
Now as I write these things, I acknowledge that while love is infinite, time is finite. We have a limited amount of time, and relationships take time. That is where priorities come in. And intentionality. I am blessed with a number of enduring friendships. Some I see or talk to weekly, others maybe once every month or so. They are the kind of friendships that are relatively low maintenance. We are all busy and we see each other when we can. I know that June is having fun in London with Jeff, and Stephanie is busy with her grands, and others are on vacation or just plain busy! But these are people I love dearly and I know they love me too. All I have to do is pick up the phone and they will be there. In a few days Jerry and I will be going to Dallas to reconnect with a group of high school friends. We have a mini reunion every year that is open to anyone who can make it. It always amazes me how those bonds that were so strong in high school fall right back into place. I love them across time and miles.
Back to the love chapter. I told you this is random and meandering. One commentary I read suggested replacing the word “love” with your own name:
Fran is Patient, Fran is kind. She is not proud. She is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong. Fran does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Fran always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I can tell you I fall short, woefully short, on every one of these. And God has taken every opportunity to remind me. “Fran are you keeping a record of a wrong, are you too easily provoked, are you persevering with this person even though they are difficult” and on and on. I realize it is taking me a lifetime to master love as defined by God.
One more though about the infiniteness (is that a word?) of love. It is in the last verse. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” One day, when this earth has passed away, when we are in the presence of Jesus, we will have no need for faith and hope, for those will be realized. But love will always remain, because God is love.