Ugly Love

Has the word ‘Love’ ever bothered you? It has me. For many years, I held the word ‘love’ in a quasi-romantic type of way. Love was the word that expressed how I felt about people close to me, but I didn’t think of it in a meaty, ponder-evoking sort of manner. Does that make sense? It’s hard to describe in words. But I took the word ‘love’ for granted.

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Last week, while interviewing my friend Jill on my podcast, a thought she expressed intrigued me. She said something to the effect that love isn’t a whimsical feeling that only produces happy and joyous emotions. Rather, love can be hard and ugly sometimes. Sometimes, love is a difficult feeling we have to trudge through.

Love can be ugly and difficult, but we press on anyways. Why? Because love is the reason we exist. God made us because He loves us. Do we confuse that with everything will work out fine and all is going to be happily ever after? I think sometimes we do, and we are sorely disappointed.
We all know the phrase, ‘love hurts,’ but when we experience the hurt of love, do we believe it is love? Love is raw and touches the most vulnerable, tender places that we don’t expose to many people. Love stretches deeper than the surface; it is ‘the true you’ that when exposed bleeds sticky blood.
My friend took care of her sick father for two years. It was ugly and hard and wiped her out. He died and she felt finished too. She is in a funk, and the ‘love hurts thing’ isn’t over – even after he died. So is it worth it? Is it worth pouring yourself out, with no benefit to you, simply because of ‘love?’ The obvious answer is yes, but it doesn’t take away from the agony of the reality. There is a spiritual connection raw in the soul that flourishes when poked and prodded. Sticking the course and working on love – its hard and ugly at times, but it’s worth it.

God gave us the example. He loved us so much he sent his son to literally die a horrific death. He was willing to sacrifice Jesus so we can regain entry with him. Does this make sense? No. Was it easy? No! It was excruciating! But God did it, because we were worth it to him. Our ugly, selfish, sin-filled selves were worth it to him.

Can we even stop and consider the depths of that truth? We gloss over it like it’s no big deal. But it’s a BIG deal. Without that sacrifice we couldn’t earn our way to good. We don’t have it in us. Sure, there is a part of us that connects to that good. But how do we react when an injustice is placed on us? How do we respond when another stabs us in the back? Lately, we can’t even disagree politically without hate-filled trash fuming from our mouths. We are a mess. But God, knowing all of this, did it anyway. He gave anyway. He loved anyway.
Watching a parent die, sticking through the ugly, painful, emotionally wrought hell, is an act of love. True love. I made the comment that although brutal there is something beautiful about the process. Jill completely disagreed. She hasn’t seen the beauty. I’m seven years out, whereas she is only three months out. Raw scars still line her heart. She was in the trenches much deeper than I was. Her father lived with her family for over a year. She left her job to become his full-time caretaker. There is a difference.

During my time, I too lost my job because a job doesn’t care. They care for a while, but when that while extends longer than they will give … you’re out. Why? It isn’t love. Love sticks – no matter what. No Matter What!

When we leave this world, we take nothing with us. We either believe we will go to heaven, believe we are reborn, believe we become the earth and no longer exist in any way, or we believe something else. There isn’t any verifiable scientific evidence that proves we have a Heavenly Father. But we have Love. Love, in my heart, is the evidence.

Love isn’t flimsy – it is steel that refuses to break. Watching steel withstand the explosion of death, pain, suffering and defeat… that is raw and real beauty. That is the hope that carries me when I feel low. There is a comforter that doesn’t make my life easy and grant me all my wishes. But I believe He loves me in that raw strength that only a divine soul can.

Over the years, and especially after having children, my concept of love has evolved and I feel very different about the word than I used to. As people, we can be mean and angry and hard to love. But true connection doesn’t exist without love. It is selfless. Many times you don’t gain from it in comfort or ease. You don’t gain from it in feeling happy and content. Often the gain is the work. It’s the hard push and pull: The grit of sticking the course. The inner strength of knowing that person intimately, spiritually, deeply … it’s worth the ugly.

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