What Is Love? (Guest Post)
It's funny, we as human beings all have different ideas about pretty much everything. That's what makes the world go round, really. We ask questions. We make assumptions. We make conclusions. Then we change those conclusions as experience dictates. One of the most debated and thought over question is, "What is love?"
Poets have long written lengthy epics.
Writers put to pen long tragic stories of love, loss and gain.
Philosophers have tried summing it up in a few phrases with their broad vocabularies. Scientists try to define it as a chemical reaction.
Countless passionate songs over thousands of years have been written by singers.
I am none of these, things.
I have no claim to a vast education on the subject. My own knowlege of love has come from moments that have led me to this point in my short life. I am a person who has loved deeply and also felt some of that thing we call love in return. I may not know much, but because of the feelings and examples I've had in my life, I have a few thoughts about what love is to me.
The kind of love I wish to talk about is enduring love.
I think of the love I have for my family. The love I feel for those friends that have become family (Shaylee being one of them). The bond between my sisters and I. The love I have for my parents and even more so the love they have for me. My grandparents have been together nigh on sixty years, I know that if anything is, that's love.
One love that I have spent the last year and a half trying to help others understand is the love that God has for his children. I can't speak of love and not speak of my God and his son, Jesus Christ.
I've been serving as a full-time missionary for the last year and a half and as such I have seen the love of God for his children in action. I can't comprehend it, all I can do is try.
I have a companion (another sister missionary) with me 24/7. It switches out about every six weeks but sometimes it stays. I had an experience with one of these companions--who is now one of my best friends-- about six months into my mission that was very profound.
She was a new missionary, fresh out of the training center. From the beginning of our companionship, I was blessed with what I can only describe as a spiritual understanding of some of the things she had been through. Not a full understanding but the good Lord gave me enough to be able to empathize with her and have a little more patience with her as she figured out who she was. I was given a start to my love for her, if you will. She came from a rough background and didn't decide to serve for quite the right reasons. She wasn't happy to be there, but she also wasn't going home. The mission was an escape of sorts for her. She confessed to me at the end of our companionship that she had purposely tried to make me snap. She had done everything she could in our first few weeks together to try to get me to lose my cool. Believe me when I say that I wanted to. Really badly some days. But to my credit (I suppose) I never did.
The experience happened in one of those instances. In this particular moment, I had never wanted to rip into someone as much as I did right then. She had done something on purpose to publicly humiliate me and had caused a scene that may have cost us our reputations in the area we were serving. I corrected her in the moment and she knew I was upset, but again... I didn't blow up. At the time, the damage seemed irreparable and I felt that I needed an apology from her in order to move on.
So I demanded an apology and a got a snide insult thrown back at me instead. Remember that love I was given for her? Yeah, in that moment, I chose not to feel it. I walked away to think and pray. I got the distinct impression that I needed to love her and forgive her. A principle from a book I had read before my mission was brought to my remembrance. I asked my sister to send me the quote to make sure I was remembering correctly.
"When they would be talking and Granma would say, 'Do ye kin me, Wales?' And he would answer, 'I kin ye.' And it meant, 'I understand ye.' To them, love and understanding was the same thing. Granma said you couldn't love something you didn't understand; nor could you love people, nor God, if you didn't understand the people and God. Granma and Granpa had an understanding so they had a love. Granma said the understanding run deeper as the years went by, and she rekined it would go beyond anything mortal folks could think upon or explain. So they called it kin." -Forrest Carter, The Education of Little Tree (If you haven't read the book in question, I highly recommend it)
I was remembering correctly, alright. The understanding of love that Granma and Granpa had is unique and not at all wrapped up in worldly things. In that moment, many things clicked for me. I understood love more. I understood myself more. I understood my Savior more.
When a person is hard to love, it is often because we don't understand them. We weren't raised like them. We have it stuck in our heads that the little quirks they have are wrong only because they are different. I think about Disney's Pocahontas. Remember the song she sings to John Smith after he calls her people savages to her face? "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew, you never knew."
I'm talking about the day to day little things. Conversations. Emotions. Habits. Feelings. You won't see those small things on the screen. You will rarely read about it in books and you won't hear about it in song. It is the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly that makes up an individual.
It's about unconditional and absolute love.
I think of the love that the Savior, Jesus Christ has for each of us. He loves us each perfectly because he understands us perfectly. He has felt what we have felt. No one can know us and help us like he can. Yet he asks us to become like Him. He is the example. So, if we are his followers, should we not strive to love as He does? I'm not suggesting we take others mistakes on ourselves or try to atone for them in any manner, just that we open our eyes to understand and love a little more.
Don't be afraid to gain experience through others.
Put yourselves in situations to serve and understand your fellow human beings, your own brothers and sisters.
Remember who they are and more importantly who you are; If you don't understand yourself, how can you hope to help and love others by offering them that same understanding?
I know if we take off our blinders of self absorption and look outward, God will grant us the eyes to see and the hearts to understand and love ourselves as well as our fellow men. Doing so will bring us closer to understanding God. That understanding is a basis of lasting love. It has helped many of my relationships- as well as my outlook on life. It can help yours, too.
I hope you have a blessed day!
-Sister Katie Steadman