LOVE: Easier Said than Done
When I first starting working with kids, I realized that we needed to do some interpretation when we used the world “love” in the Christian context. Kids think of love through what they know: the affection of family members for each other, or the “yucky” love of attraction and romance. (Yucky especially when they think of their parents! Of course, during the teens, romantic and sexual interest begins to quicken and not seem so yucky anymore.)
To speak meaningfully of love to kids requires interpretation. So we translated Christian love as “care and respect” – something you could offer even to somebody you didn’t really like…something you could decide to give, independent of feelings.
(C.S. Lewis wrote a classic examination of the kinds of love, The Four Loves, (1960) which is still worth reading and considering. But it’s a bit much for children.)
We speak of love often, as we should. But we need to be clear about what we mean. Recently, at St. Dunstan’s we’ve used the phrase “Love Practiced Here,” which suggests that we have to put love into practice, into action. Christian love is not just a philosophy, or a feeling. It is a way of life, an orientation toward others. Acts of love include forgiveness, care and compassion, generosity, respect for others. Love can mean staying in touch, staying connected – even when it’s inconvenient or stressful. These actions are things we can teach our children, and apply in our own lives. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it gets tiring. But John’s Gospel reminds us that this is the path to true joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” I have to say that the people I know who practice love most are the most joyful. I say this even though love makes us vulnerable to hurt.
- What is one way you are practicing love in your life?
- What is an area where you want to work on loving: offering care and respect, even when it’s not convenient?