Love really is such a complex word to define. It’s a verb and a noun. It’s a value; it’s a command. It makes the world go round and it never fails. Love is all you need.
If these sentiments are all true, why does it seem so hard to obtain this kind of pure and exhaustive love? What does it mean to love fully? Can we humans ever really do it? From a spiritual perspective, I would say no. Not apart from God anyway. But that doesn’t let us off the hook for trying. As flawed as our human view on love may be, I believe there are moments when we can experience true, authentic love and connection. These are glimpses of what real love is supposed to look and feel like, and they are often missed because our own fear, shame, pride, and insecurity get in the way from really being able to experience it. When these moments happen and we actually notice them, it’s like we transcend our humanity and tap into the supernatural. A heartfelt and joyful laugh over childhood memories with my siblings; a tight hug from my son when he is scared; crying with dear friends when someone is going through intense heartbreak. In those moments, if I am attuned enough to notice, I thank God, and I think to myself, “This is love.” It’s real and vulnerable and divine.
These past few weeks, I feel like I have been living in that place of real, raw, deep love. Some dear friends of ours have been undergoing unimaginable heartache and adversity. Their newborn daughter, Ari, is only 2 weeks old, and she has been battling for her life every day of it. When I think about what my friends are going through, I can’t imagine how they are functioning. But every day, they reach out to their loved ones by writing texts and blog updates about their little girl, along with their own fears and struggles and prayers. By the end of these correspondences, I find myself encouraged and spurred on by their hope and their love. They have chosen to love their daughter and those around them boldly and genuinely, even through fear and uncertainty. I have seen such an outpouring of love toward them, for them, from them, and around them that just being near to the situation makes me feel more whole and connected.
It seems that in our most painful and despairing moments, we can experience the most love. As I think back on how deeply loved I felt when we went through the process of adoption, I remember all of the raw emotions and intense vulnerability I displayed to those around me during that season out of sheer necessity. And because of that genuineness, I allowed people to truly love me and be loved by me in return. I don’t know which one comes first. I imagine it changes depending on the circumstances. By choosing to take the risk and be vulnerable, I experienced such deep and intimate connection in my relationships during that overwhelming and emotionally exhausting time in my life. I am not sure how I would have gotten through it without that.
As I watch my dear friends choose to be vulnerable, choose to be real and raw and connected, it has inspired me to do the same. That’s the amazing thing about being unguarded and choosing to love even when the world may tell us to pull in and shut down. It inspires people.
After two weeks of intensive medical interventions and thousands of prayers, baby Ari is taking some huge steps forward. Some of the big, scary machines are gone, and my friends are finally able to hold their daughter. She is not out of the woods, but the relief and gratitude for her progress is palpable to all who are invested in this baby girl’s life. Because my friends chose to be vulnerable and let us in to their very personal and painful battle, they have provided their child with an enormous network of love. I know that for the rest of Ari’s life, she will hold a special place in my heart because I feel so invested in her life already.
I would never wish for my loved ones to undergo hardship. And I can’t begin to understand why things happen the way they do. So maybe the question isn’t “Why do bad things happen?” Maybe the real question is, “Will you choose to love and hope no matter what?” My friends have. They have taught me not to be afraid to love fully. Even when it really hurts. “This is love.”