Have you ever noticed how people glow when someone tells them, “I love you?” Do you smile when you see young love; an elderly couple holding hands and a baby snuggled on its father’s chest? I DO!
In the garden I tend are the ashes of a lovely lady, my friend. She’s there at her request. Honoring her desire, her husband and I placed her ashes under her favorite lace leaf maple tree. We’ve selected timeless flowers, heirloom roses, and imported bulbs, all in an effort to duplicate the beauty of her spirit. Our garden was built in her memory and has taken on a special quality that bids many to wander through it and find solace. But the real magic of the garden is the tender loving care of her mate as he still demonstrates his love for her.
Affection, puppy love, or friendship is often misconstrued as real love. I’ve seen it twisted and tied in such a way that it’s difficult to recognize it. People demonstrate love that says, “I’ll love you if…, or I’ll love you when…, or I love you, but…” There are the trite loves, “I love your hair, my new car.” Hollywood shows us love that is either so perfect it’s not real or love that is convenient and disposable. The world tells me I need to hold my mate’s love with heated passion, exotic fireworks or possess eternal youth. The secrets to their perfect love may sell magazines and vitamins but rarely prevents the demise of a relationship.
New love makes people giddy, they walk on air, and smile at nothing! Shop windows displaying wedding dresses cause me to reach and touch my own wedding ring and its promise. I can be frozen in my tracks by the sound of a baby’s trusting laugh as they hold onto a loving finger, or as they are cuddled in their parent’s arms.
Love. It changes everything.
Our home is often the place where other children hang out. I’m many times called upon to hem a dress, help with math or a research paper. These opportunities allow me to help encourage a struggling teen, toddler or parent. I am rich in loving friendships. Why do they come? People need people to listen to them, encourage them, and love them when they’re feeling discouraged. Or even more when they’re not very lovable.
How do they know they’re loved? We’re here for them. Often, we demonstrate love with a plate of cookies, a listening ear, or help with a report, or a hug when it’s needed, and a playful tease to show they belong. But ultimately, it’s the gift of time spent on them for them! Not the ‘I’ll love you if,’ or the, ‘I’ll love you when,’ but the ‘you are welcome here anytime-love.’
So is it pixie dust? A secret ingredient in chocolate? A love letter, a perfect card? Although those things are appreciated and keepsakes, they fade.
I’m impressed with timeless love and people who know how to love ‘forever’. The magic of their love is a formula of hard work and putting the other person’s best interest ahead of their own. They understand love is sacrificial, self-less, patient, and kind. The Bible tells us love doesn’t seek its own and endures all things for the sake of others. This kind of love is an ‘I’ll love you in spite of’ love.
An ‘in spite of’ love makes heroes of us all. This kind of love makes us try when we don’t think we can, get up when we’re certain we can’t, and continue when the world says quit. An ‘in spite of’ love keeps on loving even when it’s tough, and when running away would be easier. ‘In spite of’ love loves those who are hard to love and those who can’t love themselves.
My neighbor embraces an ‘in spite of’ love. He demonstrated love when illness made his relationship with his wife difficult, yet he never loved her less; in fact he loved her more ‘in spite of’ her challenges. He put her best interest in front of his own continually. He sees himself as just a spouse living out his marriage vows; I see a hero. I saw him give sacrificially; he thinks he should have done more. When she could no longer say ‘I love you,’ his unconditional love NEVER grew conditions. He tends the garden and her memory as if she still sits on the garden wall. His selflessness is inspiring.
Perhaps his love for her, true and sure, couldn’t change her condition or prevent her death, but his love, so perfectly demonstrated has changed me. Today when I celebrate family and friends, I’m going to take a moment to get rid of the kind of love that has strings and conditions attached. I want my family and friends to know, “I love you in spite of.”
Love really does change everything!