“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
I’ve thought about these words a lot this summer, even more since talking to Christa Sunday night. These words highlight the loyalty of love. She shared with me something from a Korean tv show that related.
She said that one of the characters in the show was constantly asking people, “What’s the most important: faith, hope or love?” The most common answer that she’d receive was love, to which she’d respond that the real answer is loyalty (I know, it’s a little grating that it isn’t even one of the options). Christa was struck by this. I was a little stung.
Frankly, I’m not a very loyal person. I’ve been baffled when friends have used this term to describe me. I internally cringed when a friend of mine, assuming my loyalty, said he was never afraid of losing me. Understanding that these comments were made in faith, that they were meant to be compliments, I played along (something I’ve realized now was somewhat misleading) while being internally discomforted.
It’s not that I ever plan to leave, nor am I just a fair-weather-friend, but I know it could happen. That the future can’t be predicted and that my loyalty to people has limitations.
The limit for me is disappointment. In time, I can forgive any insult or injury. I’m willing to mourn with you or face any battle. I’ll defend you fiercely. But if you let me down, if you seriously disappoint me…I’ve never learned how to do anything other than let go.
I don’t mean that in a petty way. It’s not like I’ll disown you for getting me an underwhelming present or flaking on me when I was really looking forward to seeing you. That’s all forgivable.
But if you turn out to be less than who I thought you were, if you let down my faith and trust, my heart will shut down and lock you out. Though I’ve assumed the nickname of Grace, I have not known how to offer grace in these relationships.
This is why the greatest love song to me is The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Its chorus is the internal refrain of my heart. It’s as much my warning as my plea. My well-developed self-defense mechanisms won’t let you shatter my faith twice.
I can’t explain why this is what hurts me most. Why disappointment is more painful for me than cruelty, but it’s been true since my childhood.
What Christa convicted me of is that this limitation of mine is a failure to love. That it’s a failure to bear, to believe, to hope and to endure when I should. It’s a failure to accept the human-ness, the weakness and fallibility, of the people who are closest to me. It’s an avoidance of the inherent risk and compromise of love.
As my friend Saundra recently said, “When you love someone you are giving them the power to hurt you. Though you are trusting them not to, you’re also promising to continue caring for them even when they do.” That is a promise I have not been willing to be consistently true to. Well…I don’t exactly stop caring, but I do it from a distance, behind the protection of firmly bolted doors.
I’ve been reminded of a message I received back in July from God. Feeling incredibly let down, I was ready to yet again shut another person out of my heart. I felt Him saying to me, “Lindsey, darling, when will you learn to accept that the people you love are not Me? They will let you down at times, just as you will let them down. If you put your faith in Me, if you put your hope in Me, these disappointments won’t hurt you so badly. ”
I’m continuing to struggle to keep my heart open, but I’m finding that my faith and hope is more firmly grounded in Him. He keeps reminding me of how He’s blessed me through my friend Lucy’s loyalty and of how He’s restoring my relationship with my sister, Noel (she’s been the one exception for me, and just barely-for a few years we were very much estranged). These relationships are illustrations of why love is not meant to fail. In time, trust can be restored and relationships rekindled.
I am trying to love without this limitation.