On "Love"

1 Cor 13, v1-3
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge ; and if I have all faithso as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
 If I ___, but have not love, it is nothing.

Initial response: "Wow, how screwed am I?"

"Love" there isn't sex desire (eros),  close friendship love (phileo), or family love (storge).  This is agape:
"Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love"
 In the sermon today, pastor LaHue brought up that 'Agape' love was used rarely prior to Christianity.  Pope Benedict XVI spoke on this at length here.

So what's the problem?

The unconditional part was and remains the problem.

I grew up with wonderful examples of love and devotion.  My parents fought, screwed-up, and made-up.  As a small child, I just couldn't handle it; I was watching way too many soap operas and "Divorce Court" at my babysitter's and I'd often try to intervene, to get them to stop fighting.  "I'm afraid you guys are gonna get a Duh-vorce."  I even remember the stupid, whiny way I'd say it.  It got to the point that I'd memorized the patronizing speech my father would make back to me:
Now, Harold Ray, you know that I love your mother VERY much and that....
Yeah, Dad...so why do you guys scream, holler, and swear at one another?  Given a few mistaken impressions from one or the other ("Now, if I want your 'Mother/Father' to know this I'll tell myself...") and I quickly concluded that part and parcel of Love was keeping part of yourself back, duping people, etc.

I saw the downsides of Love, too, I saw it make Mom cry, and Dad crazy.  I saw them seemingly trapped with one another, by their devotion.

*That* is love, huh?  Greeaaaat.

So, I did what I knew to do:  I processed the information I was given, and I formed conclusions.  I turned inward, excluding extraneous data.  I found solace in things that didn't hurt.  People hurt, machines didn't.  I LOVED watching TOS Star Trek, especially Spock.  He had this crap sorted out--he could compartmentalize, and he was much stronger than a regular human, not only because he was a Vulcan and that's how they roll, but because he mastered his humanity, trying to erase it.

I was probably the only kid who felt let down watching Spock turn down Kholinar and turn back to his humanity.  I felt betrayed.

Amidst all this, there's certain ceremonies and rituals--pleasantries--one must observe to survive.  School lunches, church, family reunions, going to the grocery with one's mother.  Somehow (possibly through sheer physical size) I escaped the usual fate of a person with my attitudes, being the picked-on nerd, the bottom of the social stratum.   I acted enough like my Mom that people found me kind and pleasant.  I could turn on the afterburners of my memory and intelligence whenever I needed to, but I didn't beat people down with it.  Well, usually.

Anyway, it's the acted in the above that's important.  I "knew how to act," but it had no relation to how I felt or whom I cared for or whom I loved.

People could see that I was "off," especially people from my extended family that saw me only every few years.  My uncle Ova (yes, his real name) remarked at least once in every encounter, "You're doing a fine job of playing adult.  You need to be a kid before it's too late."  He might just as well recommend Rapunzel fly from her high tower.  I wasn't going anywhere, I had the math to prove I was right.

"Love" in me was such a perverse and twisted thing, I almost couldn't describe it.  It was a thing of control, of obligation, of quid pro quo.  "I did ____ for you, and now you treat me this way?!"  I'd heard that sentence innumerable times in my childhood, and now I internalized it:  I would "Love" people so much they had to treat me right.  (Parenthetically, if you can't see where I'm going with this, let me reiterate--that last sentence is the furthest you can possibly be from love.)

I heard words to the effect that it was not so, that it was self-sacrificing and it didn't hold grudges.  Indeed, the following verses to the above are:

 Love is patientlove is kind and is not jealous ; love does not brag and is not arrogant5 does not act unbecomingly ; it does not seek its own, is not provokeddoes not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth ; 7 bears all thingsbelieves all thingshopes all thingsendures all things.

I'll be as frank as possible:  Until recently, I've never read those verses as anything but over-sweet bullshit.  I've never seen anyone demonstrate that behavior, or perhaps I did and I saw it as 'extraneous data' after said person fell down (inevitably) sometime later.  People would strut down the aisle, have that verse read at their wedding, then lie/cheat/steal and divorce.  It didn't add up.

As one inevitably does, I grew and had my turns with eros, and they were wonderful and terrible in their own way:  Mindless bodily attraction and obsession.  One could see how the poets' words of being 'lovestruck' were true.  While the attendant endorphin and oxytocin releases in my limbic system were wonderful, they didn't show me anything about any 'self-sacrificing' love.  Seemed like the same quid pro quo BS, just with a much lower tier of "needs."   As soon as one couldn't satisfy those needs, someone else would.  Plan on it!  (Again, data + analysis == prediction.)

At 35, I'm just learning how screwed-up all the above is.  Agape is loving people, ignoring what they do, say, or feel.  I committed to my wife, and I have loved her not caring what she thought of me.  Irrationally, that is the only way to really love anyone:  Honestly, with vulnerability and yet the immovable faith that you are a conduit of Love from the Source of Love.

I'm doing a terrible job of it so far.  I'm starting with my family, but once you go beyond that, it's "shields up Mr. Sulu."  I still get hurt far too easily, and I lapse into old patterns.  I've seen progress since January, and I hope to continue it.  Recent events and poor choices on my part seem to be taking steps back, but that's just the Adversary being on his toes.  It will work out.

So, in summary, if you've got this concept of love, consider that you're wrong, that your base assumptions might be incorrect.

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