Love is causing me to ponder even more than I usually do. As of late, I have been reflecting on the concept of relationship. In my life I have such a diverse selection of relationships: parent-child, sibling-sibling, teacher-student, employer-employee, coworker-coworker, friend-friend, and soon, husband-wife. Obviously, the last one on the list is the one in the forefront of my mind. Love is so much more than saying “I do” on our wedding day. It is an eternal commitment to unconditional love. Yet what does it mean to have unconditional love? How can I justifiably say that I will be committed to loving this man unconditionally if I do not consistently show love to the other significant members of my family?
No man is an island unto himself. As citizens of the same planet, we are forced into interconnectedness. Every action will result in a ripple effect that washes over another human being. It just so happens that the ones who experience the majority of those ripples are the ones we interact with on a very consistent basis -namely, family, friends and coworkers. Personally, I tend to give my very best to my students, then to my employers and coworkers. My family usually receives the leftovers, and sometimes that’s hardly worth the energy it takes to sweep up the crumbs. Words are so cheap, for these are the people I claim to love unconditionally. However, when I have an opportunity to support my words with actions, I have nothing.
Unconditional love means dying to self each day. Dying to self means putting the other person’s interests above my own. This attitude should dominate every relationship of which I am a member. When I am tired, I should still practice patience. When I am on a tight schedule, I should still listen. When I am angry, I should still restrain my bitter words. When I am hurt, I should still give the benefit of the doubt. When I want leisure time, I should still help the one who needs to work. When I want to talk about myself, I should sincerely inquire about the other person’s day. When I want, I should give. As I practice a habit of love it will not be isolated to simply one relationship; all will benefit.
I cannot love unconditionally on my own strength. The key is found in the primary relationship in my life: the one between Jesus and me. If He has my full attention and all of my heart, if my day begins and ends with Him, if He dominates my thoughts and guides my actions, the love will come. If that relationship is thriving, all of my relationships will thrive. If that relationship is out of sync, the rest will suffer.
I am thankful for this lesson in love.