"Thank you for letting me love you, and for loving me back. For letting me hug you, for hugging me back. For letting me say, "I love you", for saying it to me. For letting me encourage you, comfort you, listen to you, share with you, strengthen you... and for doing these things for me."
Of all people, Christians ought most to love and be known for their love. But in so many ways we seem terrified of that very thing.
Too often we are afraid to hug, because we might lust, or cause someone else to lust. We're afraid to open up, because someone might think less of us or betray us. We're afraid to listen because we might have to keep secrets, or be accountable, or hold someone accountable. We're afraid to touch in case it's seen the wrong way by someone else (leading to fear of public disgrace and lawsuits). We're afraid to be or even appear vulnerable, but many of us are also afraid of appearing cocky.
Perfect love banishes fear. (I Jn 4/18) Why, then, do we fear? The clear implication is that we lack love-- or at least perfect love. But we don't lack love. Daddy God loves us; He proved it by letting his only begotten son die on the cross for us. That same son, Jesus, loves us; He proved it by walking among us, healing and forgiving us (among other things), dying, and kicking death in the teeth for us. The Holy Spirit loves us; [s]he proves it every moment of every day by living in and with us.
So we don't lack love. We either don't fully understand that love, or we don't fully accept it (or both).
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (Jn 13/35) Love isn't distant. Love isn't afraid to be honest, to hug, to laugh and cry, to touch, to comfort, to be vulnerable. (Love also feeds, clothes and houses, but we're not as afraid of that part. Usually.)
The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God with every bit of our being. Hot on its heels is to love each other as we love ourselves. These two commandments are the basis of everything God has said to us. (Mt 22/36-40) So... where is our love?
You might well have assumed the opening paragraph was written to my wife, Sharon. While everything in there applies to her (and I've said it to her), and while I love her more than any other human being, these were thoughts I wished I had said to a woman half my age right after I got off the phone with her last night.
Shock! Horror! Scandal!
Not quite. Ashley is my spiritual daughter. It still gets to me that God not only gave Sharon and me two awesome biological children (whom we love dearly), but that He has put so many other awesome people in our lives as family, to love... and who love us back.
But for years I felt that I had to keep some of that bottled up because some in the Church couldn't deal with love that expresses itself purely and passionately in this fashion. (Even the word passion can be dangerous in the wrong hands!)
If we really believe God... if we don't think He's a liar or a fool... if we really want to call ourselves His children and be like Him, we need to get serious about love. We need to let it flow into us until all the fear is washed away or squished to death under love's great, joyous weight. We need to let it flow through us, out of us, into and onto everyone around us, in tangible ways. Far more than a smile or "God loves you", though those are a good start, we need to look people in the eye and tell them they are loved (and mean it!), to hug them, to laugh and cry with them, to listen... to be real.
Who do you love? Have you told them lately? How? What are you waiting for?