Love can be a fuzzy word. Over the course of my life, I’ve expressed my love (of course) for family and friends…but also for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Chicago Cubs, a handful of grade school crushes, days off, Thanksgiving breaks, and cheesecake. Even the self-awareness brought by writing article led me to consider how often it slips into every sentence. It is a word that is used over and over again for everything ranging from truly deep, meaningful, love to a passing fancy or fading affinity. To “love” something could mean just about any positive emotion felt in that particular moment. And if there’s one thing February proves every year, that’s a ball we like to run with.
But an interesting thing happens when we look at love in the Bible. Perhaps the most famous and used instance is Paul in the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians. While we most often hear this passage used at weddings, it points us to the profound calling of love in community. But I’m afraid that when we “love” so many things…Paul’s beautiful poetry expounding on love’s richness rings familiar and hollow. Paul calls us to love: What does that mean in the age of Hallmark? Are we supposed love God with intense, passing emotion? Are we supposed to commit ourselves lightly to God and each other and then break it off as soon as we are disappointed? Or is there something more?
Lent is the time when the Church talks about how Christ’s life, death, and resurrection serve as the ultimate example and demonstration of love. I have found, over the course of my life, that it provides an essential depth to the joy and love of Easter. Lent shows us that God’s love is not a passing, shallow infatuation…but instead a self-giving love that challenges us and enables us to be who we are made to be. And, as we continue through Lent, we continue to see how true love does not simply tell us what we want to hear, but also inspires us to (even in the times we may not see it) change for our own good.
My Song Is Love Unknown is one of the great traditional Lenten hymns; a hymn about God’s love that transforms us from loveless to lovely even though we did nothing to earn such grace. It reminds us of what the Gospels tell us; that Christ calls us not only to receive this deep, patient, and life-changing love, but to share it as well. And then, in sharing, we truly know and live what love is.
Lent is ultimately a consideration of love. A time of prayer and intentional consideration of what God has done that leads us, with thankful hearts, out to find the loveless so that they may have love redefined as well. This is the calling of Lent and, ultimately of love; We are called to seek understanding of a love so boundless that it remains forever “unknown”.
But in stopping, in deep gratitude, and then in sharing…we realize the profound gift of new love known, through our lives, to all.