Love

Valentines’ Day is less than a week away.

I feel so very timely and relevant talking about Valentines’ Day when it’s just around the corner.  Especially considering that I haven’t sent out our Christmas cards yet. From 2009.

I bought the cards sometime that fall.  They’re in my hall closet as I type.  (Update: It’s 2013. Still haven’t sent them.) They’re probably crying from loneliness and sneezing from their dust allergy.  Poor cards.  It’s a meaningless existence.

The truth is, I’m not traditionally a celebrator of the big V.

(Let’s pretend that calling it “the big V” wasn’t awkward.  If you promise to pretend, then I promise never to do it again.  I think that’s fair.)

Even though we don’t do a whole lot for Valentines’ Day, I’m not against love.  I swear it.

It’s just that 5 kids don’t leave us a ton of time to make elaborate plans to romance each other.  Greg and I are generally happy if we can greet each other cordially in the hall.

So, despite the fact that I think a weekly date night is a fantastic idea, and a Valentines’ Day date is even better, some days the best we do at romance goes something like this:

Me:  So, want to…?

Him:  Sure.

And then we do.  Or we fall asleep.  You just never know.  It’s part of the excitement of marriage combined with parenting.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about love this week. And about Paul, who wrote about love.

If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

And I’ve been thinking about what this kind of love means for me.

It doesn’t matter how eloquently I write,

for example,

without love, I’m discordant and abrasive.

If I can do miraculous things like make my kids sleep through the night, and if I have God’s own power (which is what it would take to make that sleep thing possible), but I don’t have love, it’s worthless.

If I give everything I own to the poor, and if I adopt children, and if I open my home to people in need, and if I serve on committees and in parent groups and bake for charitable events — even if I willingly get run over by a train the way I keep saying I would for any of my kids — if I do it without love, I’m still nothing.

The thing about love is that it’s tenacious.  It’s generous.  It grabs hold of you with tight (sometimes tiny) fists, and it won’t let go.

Love is happy for the good that befalls others and doesn’t sit around cataloging all the ways life’s not fair.

Love doesn’t brag.  And it isn’t full of itself, either.

Love isn’t pushy, rude or demanding.  Not even when it’s in the right and has asked its children to do their chores 23 times and they’re still not doing them and it wants to beat its head against a wall.

Love doesn’t get crazy mad, and it never keeps score.

Love champions the truth.

Love trusts.  I bet it trusts even before the trust has been fully and completely earned.

Love looks for the best.  Sometimes under a pile of crap.  And love keeps going to the end.

Love can’t die.  No matter how many times I try to beat it into submission.

But…

Does anyone else feel like there is an ENORMOUS disparity between that kind of love and the kind of love you are actually, really able to live out to your family every day?

It’s just that I can’t even see that bar, much less reach for it.  Words that are supposed to inspire and encourage make me want to hunker down and break out the bon bons.

Disparity.  Despair-ity.  You say potato, I say potahto.

But thank God for people who are wiser than me because this week one of those Wise People reminded me that I have one job with Love, and here it is.

My job is to seek every day to minimize the disparity.

What?

My job is to seek every day to minimize the disparity.

You mean… I don’t have to be perfect right this instant? I don’t have to get love exactly right right now?

You’re kidding.

I’m a mom.  And a wife.  We’re supposed to get it all right, right now.  Yes?

No?

Huh.  There’s a whole new hole blown in my All or Nothing ship. Someday, that thing’s gonna take on water.

So here’s how I figure it.  If it’s my job to minimize the disparity between what real Love is and my own ability to love, then my responsibility is to show up for the fight.

My job is to do something.  My job is to act out Love when I can, how I can, with whomever I can.

My job is to close the gap a little more, and a little more, and a little more.

Disparity, here I come.  Start running.

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
18 comments
  1. Thanks for this. You’re right. That disparity can be so overwhelming at times. It helps to look at things in baby steps. Perfection can’t be reached in a day. I type this as my 16 month old repeatedly pokes at the release button on my DVD drive on my laptop. I’ve lowered the bar on the big V. I think the worst part about the day is building up big expectations for the day. I’m just treating it as a day to be grateful that I have someone in the trenches with me as we scurry kids off to bed.

  2. I had to comment even though I have only made it to the Big V part…Awesome! Made me laugh out loud! I found your blog last week and have been catching up (spending a lot of time I really could be using to accomplish things on my to do list) ever since! I could easily comment on each one because, seriously, EVERY SINGLE POST you have done has cracked me up…or made me cry. And I told a friend I am going to come to OR to follow you around because you are so funny and my kind of friend and she said I would probably make it in your blog. I thought that would be cool but it could actually be in a story about calling the police about a stalker so…maybe not so cool after all:) As many have already said, thank you for putting it all out there! It is what we all need…to know we are really not alone and not really all that different. OK back to reading the rest of this one because based on the other comments I think this one is going to turn into a cry-er.

  3. Hey, Beth! I only have two kids and feel the “despairity” between what love really is and what I seem to be able to deliver, even when I’m trying really hard to get it right. I long to have one of those big red buttons with the word EASY spelled out on it, but I seem to have the word TEST written on my button; the same said button my kids regularly and effectively push. TEST is very often followed up with FAIL. Sigh. I’m so grateful for grace, moms like you, the husband and children I love, etc., but most of all, I am so grateful for LOVE. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your family!!!
    (With Love. And thank you for such a wonderful post!)

    1. Brenda,

      So great to hear from you! Thanks for posting! I hear you on the TEST button.

      Beth

  4. This is excellent Beth. Comes closer to home than the eloquent essay by Paul. I sent the link to my sister who also had (has) five kids.

    As you muse about love, may I add an idea to the mix. Love seems to come in layers. Some new insight or revelation dawns on one’s mind and one is forever changed… Just a thought.

    1. Love it! Thanks for adding to the conversation, Stan.

      Beth

  5. I hate it when you leave me speechless. Wow. You did it… *again* ;>)

    1. You’re such a nice dad. You really should try to be more gruff and less encouraging… it would match the Old Marine persona better. 😉

      Beth

  6. Awesome post. So, today, I’m joining you in choosing to minimize the disparity. Why is it that I’ve never even thought about this before?

    1. Thanks, Kristen!

      Beth

  7. Love this post! Just the encouragement we as moms need! I know I think I should be able to do it all right and when I don’t I beat myself up over it. Just 1 small step at at time and soon enough there won’t be such a wide chasm (now I thought that was spelled chasim, but the dictionary proved me wrong) between how I love versus how Paul says we should love, maybe a semi wide chasm. 🙂
    I like Carina’s comment – it’s a good thing we can all swim 😉

    1. Taking small steps with you, Amy!

      Beth

  8. Thank you for this reminder. I love your honesty and it pushes me to be honest with myself. Your paraphrase is awesome! Just the way Paul would have written it had he been married, a woman and had kids. 🙂 So I am showing up today to take up the fight!

    1. Yay! Love it!

      Beth

  9. Well said! I think I can take on that job, too; like you, I feel as if I fall much too far short on most days. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. And thank YOU for the encouragement!

      Beth

  10. I had overlooked the fact that ‘The Big V’ (sure you don’t wanna take full credit for that one? I kinda like it, it sounds vintage/retro-like I think 😉 ) almost creeped up on me unnoticed, so I’m very glad that it turns out there’s still 4 days to go… Now the next question has to be: will there be any festivities then? I’m gonna see if I can get a babysitter and take my hubby out for a nice romantic dinner Sunday, that sounds really good doesn’t it? And if there’s nobody available to babysit, I guess we’ll just take the kids and go for an early bird dinner. Hmmm, that sounds a lot less romantic, but way more realistic, hahaha!
    I loved reading about your ship, by the way, mine’s been taking on water for a while now, so I guess it’s a good thing I can swim! 😉

    1. Swimming lessons for when the All or Nothing ship finally sinks… great idea! I can swim, but I really, really like my ship and have a terrible time with the idea of giving it up. More work to do on making holes.

      Beth

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