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Archive for April, 2016

Life Notes

The Partial Will End

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

For the past 16 weeks, Life Notes has focused on the 16 characteristics of love that Paul lists in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Like the annoying salespeople on television, however, “Wait, there’s more!” There is a concluding paragraph to this series, verses 8-13, that is worthy of attention, too. That paragraph begins with the line, “Love never ends.” The thought is then clarified with, “the partial will come to an end.”

\ew, if any, of us have experienced love in a way that is consistent, unconditional, and life-long (or eternal). Even the best of friendships rub nerves raw at times. The best of marriages struggle through difficult times. Long-adored spouses pass on. The children who once imitated our every move grow into teenagers who often cannot tolerate having us anywhere near them. Does that mean the love we experienced ended? I do not believe so. I think it means the love we experienced was only experienced in part – a wonderful part, perhaps – but if love never ends, then love must encompass more than just the good and easy times. Nothing of the earth is always good or easy.

As has been noted elsewhere in this series, we tend to consider love too narrowly. If our understanding of love is of something we only experience with one other person, or a small group of people, then how can we begin to grasp the love of a God who loves everyone? If we reject the pain, frustration, and disappointment that accompanies the love, acceptance, and joy of relationships, we cannot expect love to endure. When we accept only in part, the whole will elude us. Our lives on earth are mired in paradox – light and dark, hot and cold, black and white, wet and dry, happy and sad. All are manifestations of the same reality, however, and we cannot know one side of that reality without also knowing the other. In fact, the two sides define each other, as in darkness is the absence of light.

Elie Wiesel writes, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Indifference is consumed by the presence of love just as darkness recedes in the presence of light. Even so, we appreciate love more by also knowing indifference. As light is not diminished by the number of people accessing it, so love includes and is sufficient for all in its presence. If our perception is that love has left us, the experience we called love did not reflect the fullness of love. When our boundaries for what love is are too narrow, love will end.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Never Ends

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

The last of the specific characteristics of love, as described by Paul, is that love never ends. Love is eternal. It existed before we were born, and love will continue beyond our individual lives. This endless flow of love allows us to participate as individuals during our life on earth – or not – but the flow does not go or stop depending on our participation. Love endures, which is an expression of its flowing and eternal nature. Just because an object of our love moves on to another lover or to another stage of life does not mean that love has ended, only that one particular expression of love has taken another shape – painful as that can be.

As we explore Paul’s writings about love in the 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians, it becomes increasingly clear that love permeates every aspect of our being. Love animates every part of creation. Because God is love, love is ever-present, everywhere, always and forever. Too often, we limit love to an emotional expression we feel and share with a limited subset of people. In reality, how we love any one person is how we love everyone. Love is a state of being with, not a transient state of feeling.

Least it seem I am making love out to be cold and impersonal, let me emphatically state that love is intensely personal. Love recognizes and celebrates our individual natures – but true, lasting love is a celebration in communion with others. It is not so much that we are not special and unique creations in and of ourselves, but so is everyone else! We are special and lovable in relation to and with others. Remember, love requires relationship; it is not a reward for individuality. When we do not feel the love around us, it does not mean we do not live surrounded by love. It only means we are not in a state of being to recognize or accept it. Sometimes our lives become so distracted by our busy-ness or by our self-centered distractedness that there is no room left for love to penetrate. We seek love in the wrong places, or our understanding of love is too limited to perceive it. Love is always expansive in nature, seeking to include more of others and of ourselves.

Love never ends, just as God never ends. Our individual lives will end, but our loving relationships continue to impact generations after us. I believe, at physical death, our soul enters this eternal flow of love that we only sense dimly from earth. It is a blessing to be participative co-creators in the river of love that is always and ever available to us.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Endures All Things

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The 15th characteristic of love, as described by Paul, is that love endures. Love is persistent and determined. It does not give up easily. When we think of endurance, we often think of sports and the extended and extensive training required to achieve at high levels. Sports are not a bad metaphor for loving relationships. When we commit to love another – whether in marriage, friendship, or other committed relationships – we commit to being with and for them over the long-term. We agree to support and accompany them in good times, in bad times, in boring times, and in all times in between. We vow to love them when they treat us well, when they treat us poorly, when they act in ways we wish they would not, as well as when they treat us as if we were the only other person in their life.

That we remain committed to another does not mean we simply weather the difficult times, however. It also means we work to shape a relationship from those difficult times into something rare and beautiful. Enduring for endurance’s sake is self-imposed torture – there needs to be a higher purpose for our endurance, a purpose like love. I am told that wine made from grapes whose vines grow in poor, rocky soil and that endure challenging weather conditions have a depth and body that other wines lack. Some of the most beautiful things on earth require time, time necessarily requires endurance, and the difficult times often make the results more beautiful. The rings of trees record the relative ease or difficulty of their individual years. A weathered face reflects a life lived in the elements. Friendships we maintain for many years have a level of comfort and acceptance that simply cannot fully develop otherwise.

This is not to suggest that all relationships should be endured. Abusive, unhealthy, one-sided relationships should be terminated, not withstood. An abusive relationship is not a loving relationship. Where there is a foundation of mutual fondness, respect, and benevolence, however, endurance will take a relationship to levels not otherwise possible. There is a saying in sports, “No pain, no gain,” which suggests we must endure difficult practicing and training in order to reap the benefits of athletic achievement. The same can be said for loving relationships – the benefits come from a wide diversity of experiences with the other, not by only accepting the good and rejecting the not-so-good.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Hopes All Things

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things… 1 Corinthians 13:4-7c

Just as love is other-focused, so hope is future-focused. True hope, however, is not wishful thinking or daydreaming. Hope looks forward with a knowledge and optimism rooted in actual experience – projecting the future from the past. When we make time to reflect on our experiences, when we look back over our lives, we recognize recurring patterns. Every time a situation looks dire, eventually, something (often unforeseen) happens to help the situation work out – not always in the way we wish, but always in a way that helps us grow. When we recognize this pattern of grace, we begin to develop – uneasily at times – a nebulous sense of hope. This hope is not rooted in a future vision we can specifically see or know, but in a faith that no matter what life brings, we will be loved and cared for, and we will come through the other side stronger and wiser. It is often easier for those of us in the second half of our lives to experience this hope simply because we have more years to learn from.

In Romans 8:24-25, Paul writes, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” If I hope to experience a beautiful sunrise today after the sun has risen, that is not hope because it already happened. I can hope, however, to see another beautiful sunrise in the future because I know from experience there will be more sunrises that are beautiful. I do not know the specific days or the frequency with which those will occur, but I have confidence they will happen. I wait expectantly for them, even though I do not know when they will manifest.

My grandma Hildenbrand saw a version of me she knew I could become, rather than the person I saw as myself. She looked beyond my flawed exterior, saw and acknowledged a capacity that seldom matched the reality. Sometimes, I felt guilty and unworthy because I was not as good as she gave me credit for being – or was I? Perhaps it was my vision that was flawed. This is the amazing impact of hope on the object of our love – that we see beyond our petty failings to the image of God from which we were created. Someone who believes in us, who hopes for the best for us, who sees the heart God created and animated within us – these are the people who inspire us to greatness. These are the people who know the power of hope, and these are the people whose unfailing and unconditional love inspires us to love others with a similar hope for all things.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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