We’re having a party! You’re invited! Come! It’s all about love. Bring your empty box! Decorate it pretty so we can share love notes with you!
Valentine’s Day never seemed so exciting. We shopped and we crafted. We wrote out love notes and we waited in happy expectation. But somehow, somewhere between Mommy’s phone ringing, baby’s fall breaking, and passing out our love notes to one another, something went terribly wrong.
My 3 older kids were alone in the party room. I was standing just outside talking about my own desperate need for prayer. Something happened that I did not witness personally.
Enter: Irate mom. Irate mom interrupted my tears brimming, baby rocking, broken heart on my sleeve conversation by yelling at me about how terrible my children are and how her precious snowflake was crying because of my monsters.
So I did what any reasonable person would do. I apologized. I asked what had happened. I made them apologize. I explained to both mom and daughter that it seems my girls may have just wanted to be her friend and didn’t know how to introduce themselves appropriately. My girls sat crying for a long time while their accuser showed no evidence of any personal pain.
When we came home we talked about the love gone wrong party. I do not presume to know exactly what actually happened. What I do know very well is my own children. I know exactly who they are and who they are not. They sin just like me. They hurt just like me. They love just like me. And they tell me the truth when it really matters.
So what happens when a bully calls you a bully and cries fake tears to get you in trouble? What happens when that bully has an authority (bully mom) who does the same? When bully mom singles you out and yells in your pint size face in full view of all your friends? When bully mom goes on a tirade among all the other authorities yelling about how despicable you and best friend (sister) really are? What happens then?
Well. You stand by your apology. Perhaps you did cause some small injury unintentionally. Perhaps you did. And then you sit back and you realize that sincere apologies do not matter to bullies. You realize that forgiveness will never be extended no matter what you say or do because the animosity is not coming from a place of honest offense. It is coming from a place of hatred and jealousy; malice and deceit; pride and envy.
Then you cry. You sit at the party you so looked forward to and you cry about how you’ve been treated. You take quite some time to listen to the one who loves you most when she says it is going to be OK because her love never depended on your behavior. You finally get the courage to wipe your tears and go back to playing with the other kids but when the day is done you go home and you appeal to the one who loves you again. You realize that there is no place for the likes of you at the next love party because you have learned that there is no love at those kind of parties after all. You wait, hoping love comes back and loves you, apologizes to you, sits next to you, embraces you, and rights the wrongs it did, or, at the very least, shows you how you have wronged it.
You realize that the truth is, love does. Love will. Love reconciles. Love forgives. Love lives on after our preferences, our pettiness, and all our imperfections. Love does and will do all of those things and so, so much more if it is, indeed, love after all. If not, well, then I need to be more wise and discerning the next time I’m invited to a party labeled “love” to that fact that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with what I know love actually is all about. I have no interest in fake love parties. Those aren’t for me and they certainly aren’t for my children.
Love is not something we can celebrate if we are looking for a self-centered pity party over our every whim and want. Love is messy, painful, sacrificial, and other-serving. You cannot accuse, fail to forgive, hold in contempt, and wait with binoculars and your detective hat for the next offense just hold onto the upper hand; the control; the selfish benefits of being the boss without the selfless service of being the leader.
Everyone likes to be invited. Everyone wants to celebrate love because love is the greatest of all things we have been given on the entire earth. But we cannot invite others to love parties that do not both display and convey true love accurately and appropriately. If we do, we should not wonder why they won’t ever come back once they figure out how this thing works. You can’t bait and switch and expect the bait to keep fooling the fish. Our Lord only gave us two commands. Two.
1. Love ME (God)
2.Love each other
If we cannot do that, we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to share, and nothing worth inviting anyone to come and be a part of.
And you know, God has his ways. He always shows up just when we need Him most. It just so happened that we were invited to anther love party. It was last minute and unexpected. It was hosted by one who had nothing prepared save her heart. She wanted to love. She sought to serve. She gave the little she had to me and my daughters freely without even knowing how hurt we’d been by the last party labeled “love.” What grace He gives in our time of need. What a good, good God we serve.
With that, I leave you the words of a wild thing and a king:
” Judith: Psst. Psst. (signals for Max to come over) What were you doing with Carol just now?
Max: Just talking.
Judith: Oh, a secret, huh? Let me ask you something. How does it work around here? Are we all the same or are some of us better than others or – ? You like to play favorites, huh, king?
Max: No, I like all you guys equally.
Judith: Don’t give me that. I can see how it is. The king has favorites. That’s really cute. Do you have a favorite color? Hey, can I be your favorite color? (laughs)
Max: (imitates her laugh)
Judith: (does it back)
Max: (does it again, with more effort)
Max: Har har har!
Max: HAR HAR HAR
Judith: You know what? You can’t do that back to me. If we’re upset, your job is not to get upset back at us. Our job is to be upset. If I get mad and want eat you, then you have to say, “Oh, okay, you can eat me. I love you. Whatever makes you happy, Judith.” That’s what you’re supposed to do!”
~Where the Wild Things Are, 2009, Jonze and Dave Eggers