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12th of February

Love is Tough

Dickens’ Oliver Twist became a movie when I was a girl.  I was moved to tears as young Oliver, recently orphaned, sang Where is Love?  To be orphaned at all, let alone in such bleak times as the novel’s setting, was beyond sad to me.  Yet, I could relate. 

Growing up in an often tumultuous home, I retreated to my room or the woods wondering the same as Oliver.  Where is love?  I knew my parents loved me in their own way.  I also knew that what they said was love, didn’t feel like love, and I became confused. 

Is love simply doing what you’re told, trying to read minds?  Is love trying to control others to think, say, and do what you want—what you think will make you happy even when it’s contrary to what God says? 

As I grew up, I realized that the whole world is twisted when it comes to love. 

Basically, we can be selfish to the bone.  We can want what we want when we want it and we often can use the word “love” to manipulate.

Any bristling right now, right along with me?  Truth hurts.  But love and truth cannot be divorced or love isn’t love at all.  If we want to love true and if we want to be truly loved, we need to know what true love is and is not.

Our model for love is Jesus.  But even Jesus is misunderstood.  He was misunderstood when He walked the earth.  Still is today.  Pharisees wanted truth.  Hurting people wanted love.  Many did not want both together.  But Jesus only offers a package deal.
Through the ages, humanity has vacillated between love and truth, hardly ever finding balance.  Truth is, love without truth isn’t love and truth without love isn’t truth.  Truth and love are inseparable partners in God’s kingdom.  Try as we may, we will never slice and separate.

How does this truth make a difference in our lives?

I learned at a young age that if I didn’t stand for something, I could fall for anything.  So as I went looking for love, I also went looking for truth.  Having always been somewhat philosophical yet pragmatic, whatever I considered as foundational in building my life had to work in real life.

I found Christianity, true Christianity—not some half-baked, man-messed version of Christianity—is the way.  As a teenager I began to follow Christ, then began exploring other belief systems.  I came back to Christ emboldened and sure.  There is no god like Jehovah.  Christ’s ways are THE way.  When He claimed to be THE way, THE truth, and THE life, He meant it and I still believe Him.  Test Him and you will find there is no error in Him and His ways.

So, the dilemma of love and truth came to me the year I launched into adult life at age 21.  Newly married and moved to Chicago from small-town Ohio, I found my parents divorcing and my new husband in a psych ward with panic attacks.  I floundered.  With hardly any friends where I lived, I relied on my church family and a Christian therapist for counsel. 

The next seven years became trial-by-fire for me.  Parents suing each other—one asking/demanding a show of “love” by having children testify in court against the other parent—brought the subject of love and truth to the forefront of my thinking.

What is love?  What does love do now?  How does love love when someone you love is hurting so much that they want to hurt?

I said no.

I would not testify.  I would not take part.  I would not take sides.

I might as well have dropped an atomic bomb on my family.  Everything blew big and for years I dealt with the fall-out acid rain that burned straight through, searing my heart with severed relationship. 

Meanwhile, I had a husband tormented with newly diagnosed Bipolar Disorder who liked his mania and despised his depression.  Like most creative geniuses, mania is considered friend and even the foe of depression can yield artistic greatness.

Loyal to a fault because of a warped sense of love and duty, I stayed until he abandoned me for another.  The details of our marital demise are interesting and enlightening on many fronts, but this is not the time or place. 

The point here is how to love when the one you love wants you to love in a way that’s harmful.  When the one you love wants you to rescue and enable but the one you love does not want to grow, what do you do?  When the one you love insists on dragging you down—on drowning with you, what do you do?

I let go.

I had to let him go by placing him in the hands of God and say goodbye.

Might as well have stabbed me straight through.  I realized I could not save another in a sea of tumult when I was choking down water myself, unable to breathe.

So I let go and asked forgiveness and wondered much about true love and truth.

Still do.

There have been many times since when others have asked, pleaded, demanded that I do things I know in my soul are neither loving nor true—even though they seem both loving and true to the one asking.  How do you weather accusations of being unloving then?  Do you just cave for the sake of peace?  Do you just give in and give up so someone can keep up appearances or maintain dysfunctional status quo?

I can’t condemn another’s choice.  We all have to answer to God one day.  I can only control my own choices, knowing I too will have to answer to God one day.

One thing I know is this—love and truth cannot be separated.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  True love breeds true life and both are only found by following Christ’s way.  God’s word is truth.  Jesus says so.  So, with much prayer and trembling, I ask Him for help in understanding and applying His word to every part of life.  And yes, I fail.  I am not perfect and will never be this side of heaven.  And when I discover I’ve been wrong, I must also follow Christ and humbly admit and ask for forgiveness.  But where I’ve been right because God says so in His word and His way—I must stand strong with Him and not waiver—not to lord “rightness” as a sword or flash it like a badge—but to uphold truth, which is love when held together with humility.

I still tremble when accused of being unloving.  But it drives me straight into the arms of God who reads me His word, explains what it means, and encourages me to keep standing strong—in Him.

Love is tough sometimes. 

I’m thinking about the double meaning of what my fingers just wrote.

Love is tough sometimes.

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