What Is Love?

smiling father and child

Worldly Love …

I’m not going to lie. I hate rejection and am far too fond of the world’s approval. When a person doesn’t like something about me I’m often too thin-skinned. I’m in awe of people who let things  roll off their backs.

Lately I’ve been realizing that my definition of love — what I really believe it to be deep down — is something related to people telling me I’m great in exchange for me telling them they’re great. So basically take-take relationships have been my thing.

Selfless Love …

I do occasionally have  true moments of unselfishness but I have to admit they are moments when I am kind to animals or people who won’t tax me too much. Animals, in particular, aren’t able to write negative reviews of the home-cooked meals I make for them but then they don’t mind eating trash and roadkill either so …

The other night I decided to look at the  book reviews that had just been posted on Amazon. A few weren’t as wonderful as I always want them to be. Here I will also admit that people who leave one star reviews on free books are very taxing to me (hey, I’m human).

I whined to my husband. He always brings me to the heart of the matter. “You want to put yourself out there, so you have to be able to take the heat. Do you think Trump spends time worrying about reviews?”

Yeah. Let’s not talk politics, but my husband of course was right. People write negative reviews on everything from pavement sealer to the Bible. Why should I expect to be liked all the time? Some of you remember that I don’t leave negative reviews online but that hasn’t stopped me from trashing movies, books, politicians and so on to friends and neighbors. I’ve also fallen out of love with people.

Anyway, since I’m reflecting on life’s purpose these days I’m reconsidering my definition of love as that happy feeling when everyone likes me and I like them. It turns out, that in general, I’m not even marginally good at selfless love.

 

I basically love the following reader who left this review of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD:
“This is a love story from the first. So much love between two people. The story is wonderful. I want to read the whole series.”
Yet I find it harder to love this reader:
“I have never read anything so dreary, sad, depressing, and frustrating in all my life!! It took me forever, I had to force myself to finish it.”

Yet these two opposing views made me consider love even more. I get the desire for uncomplicated feel-good stories about love, but I’m incapable of writing them. I’ve never found love easy. Surface romance is fun but it ends so quickly. It ends because romance is always about drawing attention to oneself until that point when you can no longer keep up the facade of being a truly marvelous soul.

Romantic Love vs. Biblical Love …

On that day or soon after both partners have to decide if it’s better to run or stay. Staying means you have to enter into the Biblical meaning of love which can be not only difficult but also horrible in many ways. Yes, you begin to discover that your partner is so damned selfish and too hard on the kids. He’s quite possibly insane (or so you think when he disagrees with you). When this person isn’t spending all of his time reflecting you back to yourself in a positive way and begins to question your sanity, well then, it’s no rom-com.

Possibly because I have such trouble sacrificing my desires in acts of love (and also find that my passions are fleeting and that my eyes wander), I’ve always been interested in the after stories of the happily-ever-after stories. You know, when things get real.

Tortured Love …

But getting real means you have to be strong enough to deal with people who won’t like what you have to say. On second thought I have compassion for the reviewer  who just couldn’t like my story about a love that endures great hardship. I couldn’t  endure a similar relationship in real life and I really, really loved the guy (or thought I did).

Now that I’m older I see the promise in sacrificial love. I’ve done it once or twice and wonder in those moments why I don’t do it more often. Laying down every expectation comes with a weird peace that goes against my controlling tendencies. It usually brings about better outcomes (in the long run). For me I can only do it with God’s help in the form of daily digging into Scripture. My worldly self sees no reason to give myself to anything that doesn’t reflect back on me glowingly.

The Creator’s Love …

The gift that God has given me in writing  novels is an insight as to how God loves us despite our miserable behavior and hardened hearts. I tell the truth about my characters because I’m  compelled to do so in search of  greater truth. This may sound pretentious but why do we tell ourselves stories anyway? I told the Tenafly Road story because one day I was asked to let surrender my romantic ideas about love and let a different kind of love flow in — a love that believes that the lowliest sinner is offered a place in the kingdom.

Redeeming Love …

I write about these lowly people because I know where I come from (and it’s pretty low). I write because I know that deep love is hard and miserable sometimes. I’d always had a hard time imagining a God who really loved people until He showed me a creator’s love for the created. God in His wisdom and with His sense of humor got my attention when I first set out to write against Christianity years ago. No matter how I tried to get around it, I kept bumping into my own desire to redeem John Weldon and the rest.

And so after a few days reflection I’m ready to admit that I still have a lot to do when it comes to loving people who leave negative reviews or critique my cooking. Deep love brings with it risks, but I want to take God at His word that loving deeply is worth it.

Finally I got this review and it kind of sums up my feelings about life which  makes sense since I wrote the book. 🙂

“Not sure what I think of this book on its whole. A list of dysfunctional characters all so full with faults. But so well written I had to keep reading. Characters so frustrating one wants to slap them but so human one keeps hoping for the best for them.”

I want to know what you all think LOVE means in the comments. Have any of you survived a tortured love story? Do you like reading them?

The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Love

john-william-waterhouse-a-song-of-springtime-1913
A Song Of Springtime by John William Waterhouse

The voice of my beloved!
    Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
 My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
    looking through the lattice.
 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
 for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
 The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away.

SONG OF SOLOMON