I am finding that love comes and goes. It is found in all different shapes and sizes, ways and means. As a boy the clearest memory I have of love is my mom scratching my back as I lay in bed at night. I could never get enough. It was a simple gesture I imagine on her part, but one that connected us and was a familiar comfort. I felt safe and loved.
In my early teens love came to me in overwhelming emotions toward the girls. I remember absolutely falling in love with Jodi Foster after watching the movie “Taxi Driver” at the theater. I guess the age restrictions at theaters and parental guidance for me was a bit lax. I wandered the streets thinking about her that night. I don't remember the exact thoughts, and I don't think any of it was about who she was in real life, just the character on screen. I wanted to save her, help her, rescue her and tell her she did not have to live that way. I loved her.
As I accumulated years as a teen I would fall head over heels anytime a girl even looked my way. Many times it was vain imagination; other times they really did like me. But I felt a feeling inside that moved me emotionally, and it drove me. It must have filled an empty place, a need. It was powerful.
It wasn't long before the definition began to change, and the word “love” came to mean a physical relationship. If that was not included then, I would move on. It was totally unhealthy, and I am so sorry for the hurts I may have caused along the way, but it was my understanding of love and I yearned for it.
I have a book of short stories, how my quest for love as a teen played out. One time I hitchhiked to Los Angeles to see a girl I liked who had moved there. On the way I got an offer to ride in the back of a pickup through the Mojave Desert, in the summer, during the day. The temperature in the shade that day was 110 degrees. When we got to the far side of the desert I was toasted, seriously burned. But I was determined and kept on going. The visit lasted just a few days.
I define some of my friendships with the word “love” today. God is so good to me in this area. He has given me a vast and varied compilation of friends. I love the men whom I consider my friends who speak into my life in huge ways. I learn so many life lessons I missed as a boy, young man, husband and father. They share with me their struggles and victories, and I do the same.
The one thing I have found in friendships for me today is that many are seasonal. God puts someone in my life at a time when He wants me to grow in a particular area or learn a specific lesson. After He has placed the lesson in my heart He moves them aside and brings in another mentor or friend. I can get confused behind this way of His teaching sometimes; someone leaving can make me sad or even mad. But today I understand better what He is doing. I see now how it is perfectly timed for me to grow in my relationship with Him. The cool thing is that I have longed my whole life for a group of friends, a family of friends and relationships. He has given me that, and I am humbled.
Love is not only defined in human relationship. I love sitting in my chair and reading. I love coming home in the morning to the smell of bacon. I love laughing as our dogs do goofy things and the cat rolls around on the porch ignoring them. These are things that fill me with joy and comfort, and I would say I love them.
Now some folks are thinking, what about your wife, your kids, God? Well for me those would be the pinnacle today of my definition of love.
God is first. He is a Father to me in the most amazing ways, and He shows me He loves me in ways that only He can show me -- inconceivable, unbelievable, deep and meaningful ways. I have cried so many times as I tell the stories of His love for me, and I ask how can He love me so much. My understanding of a father’s love has been a long time coming. My earthly father did the best he could. I got that. The love of our heavenly Father is so much more.
My wife, my best friend. I cannot imagine life without her. The goofy buy true saying, "She completes me," fits here.
My kids -- they are my joy. I am so proud to be their father, and I love them dearly. How much more? What else can be said?
One of my close friends said something very profound to me not long ago. We were talking about doing something over a weekend, a guy’s weekend -- no kids, no wives. He said he would have to think about it. He said he only had 120 Saturdays left before his son turned 18, and he did not want to miss one. That comment went deep inside of me. I am convicted and struggling to reason with that. His love for family and an acute awareness of time was something God wanted me to hear.
God's love can be hard to understand at those times He stands beside us as we experience hurt in our lives. Like a good Father, one who lets their child learn hard lessons so they can be stronger later, one who is there when their child falls to help them up. He might not stop us from falling, but He is there to comfort and love us when we do.
Each day we awaken to a new sunrise, a chance to live life differently. Are we going to wake up and be angry at the world, our wives, family? Does that emotion take us out or fill us up with that feeling we know as love? Valentine's Day is full of amazing opportunities to make right some of the things we do. You know what they are. I am also claiming it as a calorie-free holiday. Chocolate, a nice meal, treats and desserts are all off the grid for the day if you use them to show your love to someone for whom you care. Know, too, that the little things make a huge impact on those you care about.
Jodi Foster and I never got to meet, and I think God knew best there. My wife, on occasion, scratches my back -- a never-ending delight. Each day is an amazing gift, and I am trying my best to take each one and use it to His delight. Of my past 636 Saturdays I have made some good, some not so good choices. I am praying that the ones I have left matter.