The Ponder Effect | What does love ask of us?
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What does love ask of us?

Valentine’s Day is this week. The holiday was named for a Roman priest who married young couples against the wishes of the emperor, who preferred to send the men off to war unmarried and therefore less weary of dying. The priest, whose name was Valentine, was sentenced to a wretched death for his offense: for choosing to grant the sanctity of marriage to young people who loved one another.

What did love ask of them, of the couples and of Valentine himself? It sure wasn’t roses and a reservation at Bastion. It asked them to commit to something despite the explicit danger. It asked them to devote themselves to a person or a principle despite—or perhaps precisely because of—the total self-sacrifice required. That’s what marriage is. That’s what parenting is. That’s what faith is. That’s what service is.

There’s a saying that love is 10% emotion and 90% work. And yet everywhere we look—instagram, the cover of People, rom-coms—the image of love looks more like 10% emotion and 90%, well, image. Does love ask us to post a selfie and generate a bunch of likes? No. It asks us to be in the trenches, blissful or broken, apologizing and forgiving, challenging one another and withholding judgment, remaining. It asks us to punch our ego in the throat, as one member so astutely shared in our first week together. And then it asks us for more. It’s one thing to love your child more than yourself, but what about your neighbor, especially the one divided from you by background or political preference or religious practice?

Love is the ultimate paradox. It asks us to give everything we have so that we can have everything we need. In your experience, what has love asked of you? What is it asking now?

*Some of the content shared here is echoed in a column I wrote for this month’s NFocus found at

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8 Ponderings
  • Anonymous

    February 12, 2018 at 4:01 am

    My husband and I are considering becoming foster parents. Love is letting go of fear. Not allowing the “what ifs” to paralyze me. Drowning out the noise around us, the people who don’t understand our reasons, the gasps and loaded comments and taking the plunge to share our love without strings to another who yearns to be cared for.

  • Anonymous

    February 12, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    When I was thirty-four, a certified letter arrived one Saturday informing my husband that the blood he had donated at church had tested positive for HIV. My world shattered as I knew it. Our children were 8 and 5. Love asked me to stay, forgive, and support my husband, living each day knowing the inevitable illnesses and death were down the road. I know in my heart that it was only God’s grace that gave me the strength to do it. He died when I was 39 and the anniversary of his death was February 9.
    Now Love asks me to stay quiet, supportive, and non judging in my adult children’s lives during their struggles. It is so very hard because although they are grown, you still hurt when they do and you have no control. Hard not to give into fear and have peace.

  • Anonymous

    February 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Something about the way this question is phrased hit me hard. My first thought was, “Ugh – EVERYTHING.” That’s what love requires.

    Some days, especially gray February days, I’m just not up to the task of being enthusiastic, intentional, or thoughtful. Love means that I walk the dog in the freezing cold, or in the pouring rain. Love means I set up the Hot Wheels tracks, even though I’m bad at it and the plastic loops never end up looking the way they do in the guide. Love means I fold the laundry and pack the lunches. It says, “I’m here,” when, sometimes, I’d rather be “there.”

    Love means, sometimes, accepting that there’s not a lot of room for romance, but that the love remains – deeply rooted, if not freshly cut. Love requires that I forgive, work through, go to therapy for things in my past if necessary so that I can … what? Love better; love freely; love, unencumbered.

    Right now, and maybe every day, love asks me to say “yes.” It’s what love and serendipity have in common – a willingness to be open to the possibilities of doing things that you, in your own skin with only yourself in mind, otherwise might not do. It is hard work to show up, to forgive, to do something radical, to open yourself to vulnerability, but that’s the real deal … and maybe why everyone needs so much wine and chocolate on Valentine’s Day. : )

  • Anonymous

    February 14, 2018 at 5:32 am

    What do we owe love? What does love owe us? I receive love. I give love. Can it be counted? Measured? Do the accounts balance? Should they? I have loved and hated the same people. Love owes us an explanation, if not at least a definition. God is love? God has some explaining to do as well.

  • Anonymous

    February 14, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Love asks us to love ourselves so that we can put everyone else first….in our thoughts, words and actions. Love asks us to love others enough to forgive them and to ask their forgiveness.

  • Anonymous

    February 14, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    The most annoying passage I hear is “Love is patient, love is kind.It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…” Obviously these are things we strive for but we as people are not perfect. It is a part of life to experience impatience, jealousy, ego, selfishness, and anger. We also have moments of our best selves as well. The thing is when we love someone we go through those ups and downs together. Being in love has been so moving to me because I’ve found someone who accepts me even on my worst days. I’ve also learned to love someone on their worst days and learned how to take a deep breath and give more hugs and back scratches instead of saying mean words and passive aggressive comments(don’t get me wrong those still slip out sometimes).

    Love is also of the self. My biggest life struggle has been finding ways to love myself. I think if we all could love ourselves a little more this world would be a more peaceful place. I try to participate in body accepting activities and discourage my friends when they speak negatively about themselves. I sometimes wonder if it’s even possible to fully love yourself. What are things we can do to help spark self love in ourselves and people around us? How would self love change or world if at all?

  • Anonymous

    February 14, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    I think Love asks us to see all of something or someone, the good, the bad, and the ugly and to accept it fully. Love requires transparency, a loss of ego, compassion, and action.
    My favorite song about love is one my kids learned in elementary school :

    ?”Love is something when you give it away
    You wind up getting more”. ?

  • Anonymous

    February 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Love asks me to love myself first because I can’t give away what I don’t have.