And I lay down
My life for thee
In love we are free
He went on a walk with me one day; not because he loves walks, or because the view in our neighborhood is particularly lovely. The trip around the block doesn’t even have a sidewalk for the whole distance. He isn’t one to go on afternoon walks and would rather spend time outside with a ball, playing. But that afternoon I really did not want to go alone, so he tied his shoelaces, held my hand, and dodged the mud and the traffic with me.
I used to think that I didn’t want anyone to choose to love me. Or to choose to find me beautiful. Or to choose to serve me. Shouldn’t it all flow from an overwhelming, unquenchable love that a person has in their heart for me? Shouldn’t it be a natural, almost unstoppable response to seeing me, or to being with me?
But here he was, choosing to love me. Choosing to spend twenty minutes balancing on the curb and passing yet another apartment complex.
I am not much of a romantic naturally, but maybe that was one of those romantic ideals I held onto. And tightly. The idea of someone loving me because they ought or loving me because they promised to—acts I considered devoid of any feelings or affections—seemed almost an insult.
Of course looking back, it is clear to me that much of my parents’ love for me, and my siblings’ love, was precisely that kind of love. And, I know, is often still that sort of love.
And maybe that love is the truest kind of love.
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him… Whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Isn’t chosen love the most beautiful of all? Whenever it is clean, my husband empties the dishwasher for me. I do the laundry and fold his clothes. We laugh about how he can’t ever remember to push his chair in when he gets up from the table, and I choose not to comment whenever I walk past it and quietly push it back into its place. The miracle of those sorts of choices is that love quietly grows so that slowly our love for the other isn’t always a conscious choice, but a habit of love nurtured by our choices.
There is this suspicion among people today of simply “going through the motions.” Love is not love if it is acted only, but perhaps in action is where love most often starts, and learns to grow and flourish. Travis doesn’t want me only to act as if I love him, but he also doesn’t wish that I would leave all of those little actions undone because I just can’t find enough love in my heart at that moment to clean the bathroom for him, or to bring him a glass of milk. And he takes on another job, or fills my car with gas, or fills the ice trays not because he can’t stop this overwhelming feeling, but because he chooses to love me and all that loving me means.
I imagine having a baby will be much the same sort of love. Certainly, there will be feelings of love; but I am sure that this foreign little person in my arms will require a choice of my love. I think that’s what God Himself did for us.
Is this how we come closer to imitating Love itself? By choosing love? Surely a love that chooses to die for another can’t be motivated only by feeling and affections; surely death on a cross required a choice.
And in offering our love, no matter the perceived worth or lovableness of the other, we participate in this Love. Love that bleeds and dies and welcomes us into His family. Love which looks upon us and delights in us not for anything delightful in us, but simply because we are.