certainly isn’t setting any world records, but I still think it’s worth celebrating! And while I do want to take a moment to reflect on that day, let me assure you that this is not an episode all about weddings and marriage. Spoiler alert: God’s love is bigger than that.
It is fun to look back and reminisce about that day though, in all of its joy and imperfection. We were married in Charleston, SC and I remember being so worried about the potential for rain, which held off during our outdoor ceremony until right when we made it inside for the reception. It was a pretty blustery day though, which, with wind-swept hair and a cathedral-length veil, made for some memorable photos. Our ceremony was simple, lighthearted, and meaningful. The reception was a blast and the food was delicious. And the people - to have so many people you love in the same place at the same time - that is incredibly special.
But what I remember most about that day, by far, is love. Obviously the love between Brad and me. But also the love of family and friends, who made the huge effort to travel and celebrate with us. The love of those who couldn’t make the trip, but sent sweet messages of support and excitement. The love found in laughter, and tears, and music, and dancing, and prayers, and toasts. It was a day that meant the world to us. A day filled with all kinds of love.
I want to take a second to acknowledge that there might be some listening who have had to put their day on hold or change it altogether because of this pandemic. We’ve been forced to cancel or rearrange so many important occasions during this time. To you, I am so sorry and hope that you can safely celebrate surrounded by your loved ones sooner, rather than later. Because while it’s certainly not the most important thing, a day to celebrate is still a really big deal.
1 Corinthians 13 is a familiar passage often read at weddings, probably, in part, because of it’s poetic tone. But when we read it in the context of the rest of the letter to the Corinthians, it is clear that Paul wasn’t penning a romantic passage; he was reminding his readers of the importance of true, selfless, unconditional love. See, they were distracted by their own self-interest, their own status, their own influence. They were living their lives and even doing some good things, but with selfish motives. It’s a reminder they needed, and it’s a reminder I need, too, more often than I’d like to admit.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 reads,
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
One important tidbit about this passage is the original Greek word used for love: agape. It’s translated as unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love. This is the love of our faith. It’s a love that’s bigger than a wedding, bigger than a marriage, bigger than a feeling or a sentiment, even bigger than a pandemic. This is the love we’re ALL called to as followers of Jesus, regardless of our relationship status. It’s a love that requires hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. It’s a love that will most likely cost us something.
The other day, Brad and I decided to tune in to the One World: Together at Home concert. To be honest, we really had it on in the background, but one short segment caught our attention. Dr. Sanam Ahmed, a critical care doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, introduced one of the musicians. But before her introduction, she shared this message with viewers. “We want you to know that we are there to hold the hand of your mom, your dad, your loved one and to tell them you love them. Even though you can’t be by their side right now, we are by their side.”
While we stay safe at home and do our small, but significant, part, they stand in our place. In the midst of this pandemic, there are so many essential workers who are literally risking their lives, but also expending an incredible amount of time and energy. They are sacrificing time with their families, often choosing to live away from the comfort of their homes for the time being. They are on the frontline selflessly doing the best they know how.
That is a unique, timely example for now, but that same kind of love will always be our call. It’s a love willing to be inconvenienced when a friend is struggling. It’s a love willing to give up luxuries when aware of a need. It’s a love willing to do the thankless, behind-the-scenes work that is often necessary to support and provide. It’s a love willing to be wrong, willing to apologize, and willing to try again.
And of course, this love we’re called to is a love we’ve already been, and will continue to be, graced with, time and time again.
1 John 4: 7-12 reminds us of just that. It reads,
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
We cannot conjure up this kind of love on our own because we are not the source of it. God is love. We love because God first loved us. And if we are going to love others with any sort of integrity, with a love that is genuine and pure, we must remain aware of and inspired by God’s love. For all of us, yes, but also for each of us. For me. And for you.
You are specifically and uniquely loved by God. And nothing, no mistake, no wrong turn, no disqualification, and no rejection can change that. It’s a love that’s selfless, a love that’s secure, a love that knows no bounds, a love you can rest in, and a love that won’t ever give up on you.
And when we remember that truth and let it sink in, it changes us. It enables us to love others well, just as we are called to do.
Today, remember, you are loved. It is perhaps the truth we need to remember most, and the thing we are most often tempted to forget. It is the foundation of all that we are. And in response, may we each do our best to carry that selfless love with us wherever God might lead.