There are many definitions and renditions of love. Some would say it is an intense feeling of deep affection.
One quote I found said, “love ISN’T when you hate saying goodbye. Love IS when you see “goodbye” as the possibility of saying “hello” all over again. Love DOESN’T cover their flaws, love DOES show their flaws for all they are, but you love their imperfections, because it makes them who they are, and you love and accept them for everything they are.”
I have also heard people say love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice, which I believe is accurate. When it comes to things like these, I personally think Jesus gets everything right all the time, so I like to take a peek at what he says: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
Ok, awesome! I just have to lay down my life for my people. But what the heck does that mean REALLY? What does that look like PRACTICALLY?
I am no expert, and I am imperfect in the way I love myself and love others, but I think it’s easy to get this one wrong. . .to THINK we are laying down our lives for others when we hang out with them for coffee, or ask them how their family is doing, or open up our homes to them for dinner. These are all great things, but I think we all know it goes a little deeper than that—but we have to be willing to take that extra step, which is way more work.
One way in particular I have seen where we can love others better and lay down our lives (our needs, our desires, our schedules) for them is the concept of lament.
Lament is essentially expressing great, deep sorrow or regret and even grief about something or someone. Lament looks different for everyone. It is complex, and in the Western world, social media and simply seeing the highlight reel of everyone’s has—I personally believe—desensitized us on how to lament ourselves and how to lament with our friends and family.
Partnering in lament is a way we can lay down our lives for others, but how do we do that? Again, I am no expert and it is very situational, but I think we have to learn to first and foremost just BE with people and LISTEN to listen, not listen with the intent of a response. We have to show up. If we know someone in our life is hurting, we should go out of our way to call them before our head hits the pillow at night. It’s going to dinner with them and being fine with sitting in silence if they have nothing to say. . .and just being there with them. Or maybe it’s compiling letters from family and friends that will encourage them. It can look many different ways, but we have lost the art of lament, and we have to, through trial and error, find our way back to it. The lamentation process lasts many months or sometimes years for people, and they will need people to walk with them every step of the way. Which is why we are commanded to lay down our lives DAILY. It’s a choice. It’s a process—for us and for those around us. But we should never stop showing up.
Happy Valentine’s Day friends. May we love with reckless abandon, always have eyes that are open to the needs around us, and have hearts that invite the necessity of lament.