No, not some hip dance tune from the 90s. OK, it is (baby don't hurt me), but I mean something different.
I once lived in Seattle but unanticipated circumstances prompted a move. Before I left, I met with an aged friend. We had a rather existential discussion that lasted roughly 90 minutes.
Those 90 minutes were quite transformational.
I've posted before about how singles groups need to be support networks rather than activity clubs or dating forums. We need to meet the needs of individuals.
But how do we do that? We need a vision that includes doing things we may not want to do. We need to include others with whom we may not want to interact. And that brings me to the existential discussion I had.
Love can't be defined
The American Heritage dictionary lists the following:
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
None of these definitions really gets to the heart of what love is. Take the first definition, for example. You can describe love as profound affection, but what exactly is that affection? I can tell when it’s there, and I can tell when it’s not, but what exactly is it?
The scriptures notably do not define love. You can find descriptions of its characteristics and attributes (1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7 come quickly to mind). And sometimes love is used to define something else. A few examples appear in Galatians 5:22, 1 John 4:8, 2 Nephi 26:30, Moroni 7:47, and Moroni 8:17. But these examples do not define love.
The closest thing to a scriptural definition of love I could find is 2 John 1:6.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Close, but still inadequate. I've known plenty who’ve "kept the commandments" but treated people in ways that no sane person would categorize as love. Some even apostatized. Clearly the outward performance alone cannot define love, especially if God Himself is love.
After some struggling, my friend and I concluded that our effort was futile. What love really is cannot be defined.
Love just is
This is where our discussion became truly transformational for me.
The path of love is often uncomfortable. So everyone has filters to keep them “safe.” These filters could be a habit, an agenda, or simply a tendency toward a certain way of being. Let me share an example that my friend shared with me.
One night when my friend and his family were all younger, my friend awoke in the middle of the night to hear his baby child crying. His first impulse? Go see what’s wrong. But he stopped himself. He remembered a very important work presentation he needed to give in the morning. Why can't my wife get up and take care of the child? he thought. Doesn't she know I need to rest in order to do well with my presentation?
In retrospect, his first impulse was the correct one. It was the one without an agenda, the one that was completely devoid of any self-interest. That is love. You can describe its attributes, and you can sense that the first option is inspired by it, but you can't really define it. It just is.
And you don't think about it. There is no thought process that creates it. It just is.
Note the first impulse my friend experienced wasn’t preceded by any meditation or soul searching. You don't will love into being. It just is.
Surrender to love
The Apostle Paul gave some great counsel:
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (Romans 12:9)
In other words, we need to remove our filters, take down whatever agenda we’ve been carrying, and just be what love wants us to be --- ministers to those around us without thought of what it may or may not mean for ourselves. We need to act in generosity towards one another, in the words of Paul, "without dissimulation."
Only when we all have that vision of interacting without agenda will we leave the activity-club-dating-forum world of singles programs and transform singles groups into the networks of support that they need to be. We have to let go of the filters that hold us back and not care about the consequences of our actions.
Acting outside of those filters will be very difficult for many. They’ve been living in safety zones for so long that thinking about what others will think or how others will perceive them is an automatic response — a habit!— that steers them away from the path of love.
Nonetheless, the Savior acted in love without concern for how others would perceive Him or how they would think of Him. This is the path we must trod. This is the path of love.
Let’s remove from our lives the habits that prevent us from surrendering to love. What might some of those habits be? Well, that’s where we’ll go next week.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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