February 13, 2009

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

True love is unconditional, life-giving and joyful

Cynthia DewesIt’s amazing to see what people will do in the name of love.

Religious zealots historically waged, and continue to wage, wars against each other trying to protect the faith they love. Jilted lovers murder the objects of their desire because they love them so much they can’t bear to be rejected by them or allow them to be with anyone else.

In fact, some people are so upset by the pain experienced by their ill or dying beloveds that they kill them to end their suffering. It’s euphemistically called euthanasia, but we all know it’s really killing. Some agonized people love themselves so much, they commit euthanasia, and in this case it’s called suicide.

We could go on and on. There’s abortion done to prevent a baby from being unwanted, a kind of reverse (or perverse) love. There are genetic techniques to produce a baby because parents (or a parent, no matter what age) love the idea of parenthood so much they will do anything to get one. There’s even polygamy, supposedly illegal, which is chronicled sympathetically on a television show called “Big Love.” Yeah, right.

Well, excuse me if I don’t see much love in these kinds of scenarios. Most of us know love when we see it or experience it, and also know that stuff is not love. That’s because it’s nothing like God’s love, which is unconditional and life-giving. And in the end, which is not always readily apparent, it produces joy.

Love is when a husband of many years, frail himself, continues to care for a wife suffering from dementia. He struggles to keep her at home where she is comfortable, and suffers the subsequent lack of rest and companionship. He does not complain.

Love is when young parents give up the idea of building a deck onto their house because they haven’t got the money to do it. The money they had saved goes instead to a siege of kids’ ear infections, a leg broken in a bicycle fall or a mouth full of crooked teeth that need straightening.

Love is watching the “Sponge Bob, Square Pants” movie for the 10th time with a grandson. It’s listening to a friend at work who has no other ear available to hear her litany of domestic complaints. And not offering her any advice. It’s letting the boss think your suggestion was his own idea.

Love is being pleasant to your weird neighbor whose dogs are a menace and who regularly churns up your driveway when turning his car around in it. It’s being patient when your kid can’t get the answer to a simple math problem.

Love is calling friends on the phone, sending them e-mails and birthday cards, inviting them over for lunch or out for coffee. Not every day or even weekly, but whenever you feel the need to connect or think that they do. Love is sharing your beloved’s hobbies or at least showing interest in learning about them.

Love is constant, if unspoken, prayer for those you hold dear and for the intentions of others. It’s gratitude for God’s great beauty in nature, music and the arts. It’s appreciation for ideas and the people, books and other sources that bring them to you. Love is intimacy shared with a committed partner in a sacramental marriage.

We are creatures made in God’s image, and on this Valentine’s Day let’s remember that, as such, we are also lovers. The real kind.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: