by Mary Lou Edgar, September 2, 2022.
Each of us has probably been in love at one time or another.
Maybe it was when we were very young and the intensity of our first major infatuation disrupted everything else in our lives. Possibly it was after we completed a plan for our life and decided it was time. Every time someone has a baby, they say they are in love. It is fairly common today to say, “I love you,” when you are bidding farewell to another person.
When I was young, use of the word love was not so common. I was often told that I expressed my love for people too much. I was told that I undervalued the thought by saying that I loved everyone. It was believed that it should be special. However, no one seemed to mind when I told them I loved them.
Love is and always will be a very complex concept.
It can be looked at many different ways. According to the Greeks, it is an emotion, a state of being, a choice or ability, a gift, a force, or all of the above. The English define it differently. It is primarily affection for another person. In our culture, we don’t just love people. We love pets, furniture, food, clothing, etc. Although I frequently tell my husband, children, and many others that I love them, I never really thought about the significance of it. However, a very important part of my spiritual journey has been to experience love in a different way.
We all grew up singing “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” I can’t believe that I reached adulthood never realizing what this meant.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Loving our neighbor was so important and has continued to be for over 2000 years. I was comfortable with this concept because I believed that I loved my neighbor. Truthfully, I hadn’t given it much thought. Loving my neighbor meant doing what was convenient and staying out of the way of those who drove me crazy. It was a system that worked well for me – and it meant nothing.
As I began to pray and read Scripture, I realized that the way Jesus taught about love was to help us be accessible, accepting, and supportive of our neighbors. And I see our neighbors as being all people. It is a love I work on each day.
We all feel irritated with others at times, whether they are close to us or not. Some days are better than others. It is so easy to express dislike for someone we don’t really know. Isn’t that person our neighbor? When someone hurts us and we become agitated, isn’t that our neighbor.
For me, loving my neighbor often means waiting for my attitude to change a bit. That usually involves prayer. I find loving the people closest to me to be challenging. I have to work at my responses and realize that love takes real work, often it is a decision I make.
Loving myself may be the most difficult. I am fortunate to have those in my life who help me see my positive attributes and encourage me to love myself the same way God does. That has been a journey, but I’m making progress.
Most of my life I worked with children.
I have worked with some fascinating children who challenged most adults. I remember one child in particular who had a tremendous impact on me.
This eight-year-old child had been abused and neglected his entire life. His response to the world was rageful. I remember watching him destroy my office while praying, “Lord, help me see him and love him the way you do.” Afterwards I felt calm and waited. When he was done, I hugged him, and he cried for a long time. We talked for a while and then together, we cleaned up my office. Our relationship changed that day. Before I was judgmental and stern; afterwards, I felt caring and kind. I learned something special about love.
God is love. He loved us enough to send us his Son and His love is unconditional. He is there for us always. It is up to us to learn how to accept and rely on that love.
My command is this: Love one anther as I have loved you.” John 15:12
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.