Did you ever have a teacher who taught you specific truths that have stayed with you? Rick Yount was one of my professors in seminary who defined love as "acting in the best interest of another PERIOD." This simple truth is the central thought of one of my favorite passages in Scripture, 1 John 3:16 which states, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." John then goes on in verses 17 and 18 to describe this "acting" love very specifically..."17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
This past weekend, I have seen this truth played out in several ways, none of which presenting the Hollywood idea of love as feelings, oh, oh, oh, feelings (aren't you glad you can't hear me singing that!). It began on Friday.
Example One: The love that hurts, but still reaches out to others. (Note: I let my mom read this before posting it for all the world to see!) My mom is doing amazingly well just six months after my father's death...getting out, visiting homebound folks, eating out with friends, going to church, visiting relatives, etc. Friday we finally got around to getting rid of a lot of my father's clothes. We would have done that earlier, but had to wait until his brother could come down and get some of them. Anyway, he took some, and the rest Ma is donating to charity. She still gets down sometimes, we all do, but our grief is a simple one. We miss my father, and that's okay...we forget that feeling down is not always bad.
Our culture is filled with products to help us not to feel bad, and these medications are needed when depression, etc., become chronic and debilitating. At other times, however, our pain and grief should not be so quickly erased (or covered over with medication). Grief, like it or not, is love...that's the deal. In a strange sort of way, the pain we carry from our losses are testimonies of how deeply we've been touched.
I thank God that my mother's pain is only the pain of missing my father, and not the pain of regret, or anger, or confusion that some people experience when a loved one dies tragically. My family agree that we have much to be thankful for in how long we had my father; for his quality of life; for being given the gift of avoiding some of the ravages of old age like Alzheimer's or having to have my father in a nursing home as an invalid.
Our gratitude is never far from our grief; and our grief, and especially my mom's, is appropriate and, yes, loving. I'm not worried about her, and am grateful for having such a great mom who has such a heart for others, on days when she's "up," and even on those days when she's not. She learned a long time ago that loving others is truly about acting in their best interests! Pray for her, as she is probably embarrassed as she reads this, but I can't help it, she is a great mom, and I want the world wide web to know it!