What the world needs now is love. So much love. But this is confusing to me.
Because my son Huck swears up and down that he loooooooooves our cat. When he was a year and a half old we brought home a six week old kitten and he LOVED her so much that he dragged her around the house by her neck, sat on her, squeezed her with all his might and just about all other manner of torture. He clobbered her. He loved her so much.
When I was young I looooooooooved my baby brother. The affection I had for him cannot really be described but I wanted him under my wing. I'd have done anything for him. I was intensely protective of him and I wanted the world for him. But I was also controlling and judgmental. As we grew older and faced trials of many kinds at a much younger age than most begin to experience such tragedy, I only grew more controlling and more judgmental. Life was hard and I wouldn't have my baby brother spiraling out of control. If we were going to lose so much, I wasn't going to lose him as well. I tightened my grip. I told him what I thought was right and wrong: about his outward appearance, about his choices, about how to respond to his experiences, about his very person. I clobbered him. I loved him so much.
I can't count how many times puke has crept up my throat as I've heard misogynist men proclaim their deep, unending love for women. Religious men who argue for the quieting of women's voices will also argue that they love women as people equally made in God's image. When popular Christian Pastor, John Piper tells women they should submit to their husbands even when their husbands abuse them, he also loooooves women. And people with Anti-gay beliefs love love love gay people. They tell them that their lives are sinful and their deepest, purest, most life-giving relationships are an abomination. They clobber them. They love them so much.
Word and deed. Feeling and action. So. So. Messy. A lot of the "love" in our world today looks like Huck's love for the kitty. What do we do about that?
I can shout from the rooftops that the world needs more love in it but it's a resounding gong or clanging symbol, just noise. Because the vast majority of humanity agrees that love is the answer. You just don't typically hear people describe their own mistreatment of others as hate and often it will be done in the very name of love.
The name of love. I'm almost over the word because so incongruent are its deeds. When Huck clobbered the kitty it didn't do any good to tell him to simply love her more. He already felt allllll the love in his heart for her. Along with modeling real love in action for him, we also needed different language. The language of love was futile unless we had specific actions to assign to the word. A definition. We needed more words to accompany love. Words like gentle, soft, considerate. We love the kitty and so we don't hurt her. Love never inflicts pain on others. We needed more than the word love and even more than the feeling of love inside. We needed definitions and guidelines. We needed to teach Huck that showing his deep love for Nala, the kitty meant living out the golden rule and it also meant repentance. I'm sorry I clobbered you, Nala, I know that was not showing you the love I actually feel for you and it definitely wasn't doing for you what I would want done for me.
And if I had the chance now I'd say the same words to my baby brother that I teach Huck to say to the kitty. I'd tell him that I've grown in my understanding of love and I now know that it never seeks to control and it does not judge. I'd tell him how my idea of love was so distorted by my ever present and overwhelming fear. The world taught me to act from a place of fear rather than from a place of love and those conflicting feelings got so confused inside of me. I'd repent. And then I'd commit to doing for him what I would want done for me, to hold. I'd be gentle and kind and open and inviting. I'd tell him that I love him but I'd have some work to do showing him what that means to me now.
Love is still what we need, of this I have no doubt. But of course the word love isn't nearly enough. I think we need more words about what the world needs. The world needs gentleness. The world needs the golden rule. The world needs repentance. The world needs so much more than the love we feel in our hearts.
What's your definition of love? Have you ever had someone say they love you but their actions didn't confirm that love? Are you like me and there is someone you feel compelled to apologize to for actions that didn't show the love you have in your heart?