June 27, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

That’s the thing about love—it grows and expands

Cynthia DewesJune is a popular month for weddings, which brings us (hopefully) to thoughts of love. We talk a lot about love. Scripture refers to it often, defining God as love, and so do soap operas and movies and talk shows. Love is the ideal emotion, the goal of Christians and wastrels alike.

That’s because love can be defined in so many ways, not all of which are logical. But even though love is not always logical, it is always the right thing to do. Therefore, some definitions of it are clearly wrong. Maybe we should begin by deciding what love is not.

Some people who are promiscuous think of love as any available opportunity for sex. Their idea of love is instant physical gratification using another’s body, or offering someone else the use of their own. It’s quick, impersonal and leads nowhere. It is not love.

Some define love as the rush of infatuation we might feel when we become attracted to another. It may or may not involve physical desire, but it’s powerful. That’s why some confuse it with love, mistaking overwhelming passionate attraction for the real article. Again, this leads nowhere and is not real love.

Of course, there are other kinds of love: love for our children, our parents, pets, friends, even our work. But these, too, involve the future, with responsibilities, consequences, expectations of sorrow and joy. That’s because real love grows and expands over time.

When a man or a woman loves the other, it can lead to marriage, having children and becoming a family. This family in turn becomes part of a larger family of relatives, neighbors, parishes and other groups in a wider community. Eventually this nucleus of love becomes the foundation for a healthy society locally, nationally and even internationally.

Loving, in all relationships, creates a natural expansion. For example, years ago we had neighbors, 10 years younger than we, whom we befriended. We took care of their dog or took in the mail for them, and they did the same for us.

When we were away and our teenagers got too rowdy, they would come over and restore peace. The wife was not a confident cook, so I gave her a few ideas, and to this day, among other things, she quotes me on the need to clean up the kitchen as we go along. The husband was a pallbearer at one of our son’s funerals.

This couple had two children, whom we consider our honorary grandchildren. Today, their children are numbered among our “greats,” and we go to their birthday parties and share other events. Their pictures and art work hang on our refrigerator.

We all have stories to tell about how love goes on and on in our lives. Sometimes it’s in a relationship at work which leads not only to a gratifying workplace, but also to meeting new people whom we learn from, share joyful experiences with and, well, love.

If love is our goal, we need to be open to it. We need to get outside of ourselves, outside of our usual routines, and sometimes even out of our comfort zones. This is much easier to do when we’re young, a fact which not only leads to more opportunities, but also follows our biological clocks.

But it works at any age.

God, the expert, knows about love and has given us the tools to share it. Then we may stand back and marvel as the hot air balloon of love grows and grows.

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

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