Unpacking love

February 14th, 2013

Love is perhaps the most universally explored theme of human existence. Every great king has spoken of it – Jesus (the King of Men), Elvis (the King of Rock ’n’ Roll) and even Larry (King Live).

So what more can a humble  student say about it? Probably nothing, but I’ve never claimed to be humble, so here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Last week, we heard the Scripture that describes love as “caring, compassionate, blind, etc.”

That’s all true, I’m sure, but it’s so much more than that – Love is a badass bat out of hell, Iron Man/Hulk combo that can steal your very being and give you the strength of the Spartan armies or the weakness of Samson without his hair. So yes, I agree with what the Bible calls love, but I also think it’s a teensy bit more.

A lot of people fear that we throw the word “love” around too easily. Personally, I think we don’t say it enough. Don’t mistake this for me claiming we should say it without thinking. Absolutely not! But is it that bad of an idea to be vulnerable? I think the world would be a brighter place if more people were willing to open themselves up like that.

Many can’t tell the difference between “like a lot” and “love.” Here’s a hint: You don’t love something if it can’t return your affection.

For example, I like chocolate a lot. I once ate a five-pound Hershey bar. It was awesome. But it never told me how much it cared about me.

On the other hand, I love my family. But eating them wouldn’t make me happy like the Hershey bar did, because they have something else to offer other than confectionary perfection – their love in return (and I don’t imagine Bayer meat tastes very good anyway).

After much meditation, fulfillment, heartache and growth, I’ve come up with a barometer of sauciness in what I call the “Spectrum of Lovin’.”

I’ve broken it down into three simple levels. Let me first clarify that the number one obstacle you might encounter is thinking that love only applies to that somebody special in your life. Wrong again – love applies to everybody you encounter. So here’s the Spectrum:

1) To have love for.

If love were a water park, this would be the kiddie pool. Having love for one another is the most important part of being human (or at least enjoying being human). This is the kind of love you should share with your neighbor. It’s familiar love, and everyone deserves it.

We often have this belief that we need to earn each other’s love. I don’t believe this is true. Perhaps we can earn their hatred, but we should at least start with the loving part.

2) To love.

This is the next step up. Congratulations, you’ve moved onto the wave pool. If you straight love someone, they are probably pretty special to you. Somehow they have broken past that first level and touched your heart in a deeper way.

This kind of love should be an eternal fire that mustn’t ever be extinguished. If you tell someone you love them, you should love them forever. I maintain this to be true in my own life – there isn’t a single person I have ever said, “I love you” to that I don’t still hold a special place for in my heart.

Sure, this might seem scary – it’s a great way to get hurt. I’m sure a lot of people celebrating “Singles Awareness Day” this week have gotten to this level with a significant other and maybe gotten hurt. Man up (or woman up), and realize that being vulnerable is okay. Closing your heart to love doesn’t protect you or make you brave; it just shields you from the potential of tomorrow.

This level of devotion is also the kind of affection that should be shared with your family members. Whether you consider your family to be your parents, grandparents, siblings or friends, make sure you remind them you love them.

3) To be in love with.

Hold on a second, Tex. This is the big one – the vertical speed slide of the water park of love. You better be sure, or else you might fall right off.

You should have love for almost everyone; you should love your family and those who have been close with you; but if you’re in love, that’s the chocolate mousse of devotion. This should be reserved for one other person who captures your thoughts and your heart.

This is the kind of love that you should share with your God and that solitary other, because that’s really the only avenue by which you can fall in love.

This level is the “bat out of hell, Iron Man/Hulk combo that can steal your very being and give you the strength of the Spartan armies or the weakness of Samson without his hair” kind of love. And once you find that, I imagine it’s pretty neat.

So, how do you love?