I promised myself I wouldn’t offer platitudes to hurting people–that Celebrate Calm would be a place where we could tackle the ugliest situations with honesty and humility. People are hurting today and sometimes the flowers and gifts make the pain more acute, because the disparity between what could have been and reality becomes starkly vivid. If you find the below message helpful, please share it with others. Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook Page.
Love is messy, ugly and painful.
Today is Valentine’s Day. But love is not what the marketers tell us it is. Love is not flowers, chocolate and surprises. Love is not saying just the right thing. Love is not even doing the right thing. Love is not your children behaving well. Love is not having a wonderful day at the park. All of those things are lovely and nice, but they are not love. Love is not the romantic comedy where two star-crossed lovers find each other. The hard part, the love, is what happens six, nine, seventeen years later after the newness wears off.
Love is messy, love is dirty and sometimes ugly. Love is you staying present while your son is screaming that he hates you, but you persevere until you get to the root of the episode and discover he’s frustrated with himself. Love is when your teenager threatens to make your night miserable because you said “No”…and you don’t allow her mood to determine yours. You endure short-term pain because you want your daughter to know your home is a safe place with parents who aren’t afraid to disappoint their kids. Love is that difficult child who wasn’t the child you wanted, who you sometimes resent, but you keep believing.
Love is the couple taking the Calm Couples Challenge who are slowly rebuilding trust after an affair. Love is a husband willing to humble himself by admitting that he can run a business, but he has no idea how to have a relationship. Love is the alcoholic who admits he can perform surgery, but he cannot control his addiction. Love is the patient forbearance of a spouse who has been wronged, and has every right to exact revenge, but is working to rebuild trust with accountability.
To my friends whose faith is important, I caution you. Love is not a well-behaved child. Love is not the sterile portrait of a perfect family who hides its imperfection to please others. That is an illusion. Love is messy. Love is when a woman is dragged from bed while committing adultery, half-naked, drenched in shame…and a man writes in the dirt to preserve her dignity and disperses her accusers with one sentence. Love is when a prodigal son limps home, dirty outside and in, and is met not by a lecturing father looking to score points…but by a tear-filled father who runs and hugs him. Love is a servant on his knees washing his followers’ feet. Love is a prostitute given another chance. Love is what compels an innocent man to be whipped, beaten, spat upon and nailed to a tree. This is where love lives.
If you learn to embrace the imperfection in your daily life–that husband who means well but doesn’t always know the right thing to say, the overwhelmed wife who lacks self-respect because she’s always trying so hard to make everyone happy, the little boy with the huge mouth and heart to match, the teenager flailing away searching for himself and his independence–then you will discover that right in the middle of this mess is where love lives.
Yes, love is cleaning up your child’s vomit. Love is seeing the best in others even when they are mean to you. Love is having the self-respect to tell that abusive spouse you would rather be lonely than treated that way. Love doesn’t run, hide, ignore or hope the mess goes away. Love sees the imperfection and courageously faces it, forgives it, teaches it, works through it. I hope you find beauty in imperfection today.
P.S. If you want help with the ugliest, dirtiest, most painful relationships…if you want help knocking down the walls you’ve built, untangling years of lies to yourself and others…if you want to really experience the love that is described above…this is a safe place. Take the Calm Challenge. Get the CDs for practical, real life help.
P.S.S. If you need help financially, you must be bold. Call or reply to this email and say, “I need help!” We respect those who seek and knock boldly.