There are some people that we like more than others; and let's face it, some people like us more than other people do.
When I worked as a nurse in the emergency room of a hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, I was quite self-assured and felt I could deal with pretty much any situation. I liked the action, the adrenaline rush, and always volunteered for the toughest cases.
We used to get some of the same patients over and over again—alcoholics, drug abusers, derelicts. I was young and I didn’t mind them. Some of them were actually nice, funny, lonely guys who simply needed a warm bed and were genuinely sorry for making a mess of their lives. They would usually be on their best behavior if they were treated with care.
Steve was a cheerful little boy with big brown eyes, curly blond hair, and a dimple that appeared on his right cheek every time he smiled. He had dreamy eyes, and often sat by the window to gaze at the rain, the clouds, or the birds.
“He has been kissed by an angel,” the Japanese midwife had told me with a smile when she first placed the small warm bundle in my arms, pointing out a snow-white streak of hair at the back of his head. “He has a special calling in life.” Over the years, her words often came back to me and I wondered what they meant.
In modern English, the word “love” conveys a range of emotions, but the classical Greeks were more precise. They had four words that all find themselves translated “love” in English: storgē, philíos, éros,and agápe.
Storgē is still used in modern Greek, and it roughly fits our English word “affection,” especially the type of affection within families. It can also be used in a “put up with” type of way—and as most of us know, that is in fact the type of love many of us had for our siblings when growing up.
I don't love you for what you are or what you aren't. I don't love you for who you are. I don't love you for how much you do or how well you do it. I don't love you for how little you sin and mess up, or for how much you do the right thing. I simply love you—no strings attached. That truth may be hard to grasp, but once you do, everything in your life will take on new meaning and new depth, a new reality. You are complete because you are loved. You are free because you are loved. You are able to love others truly because you are loved completely and unconditionally.
I didn’t decide to love you based on your love for Me or on what you do for Me. I loved you before there was any of that, before you took your first breath.
In one of her most famous poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned a beautiful declaration of love that started like this:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.
I'm on my third marriage--a fact that I don't normally mention in the presence of newly married couples. I'm grateful for my first two marriages because they resulted in several beautiful children, my most precious treasures, but for me the third time has been charmed.
When my second marriage ended, I thought that was it, that I was now a single mother and would have to just do the best I could from then on. I was soured on the marriage experience and didn’t expect there to ever be another man in my life, but I was wrong.
When I think about Valentine's Day, a day when people give special love gifts to one another, I think most of all about God's great gift to us in the form of His son, Jesus. Then I think of how all the love that we feel for others on Valentine’s Day and every day of the year is possible because of His love. There’s no time for Him that isn’t a time to give. I want to follow His example as much as I can.
I found a poem that was very meaningful to me and expresses some of the gifts we receive from our great Valentine every day of the year. When our love cups are overflowing with His gifts, it makes us want to share that love with others so they can experience it too.
When I first began reading the Bible, a word that captured my attention was “lovingkindness.” I felt very warm inside when I read passages like “I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy,”1 or “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,”2 or “[God] redeems your life from destruction [and] crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,”3 or “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.”4
In some modern English translations, expressions such as “steadfast love,” “mercy,” and just plain “love” are used in place of “lovingkindness,” but I miss that word. It seems to encapsulate in a single word what God means most to me. It is the translation of the Hebrew word chased, and it was coined long ago by Miles Coverdale, one of the very first translators of the Bible into English. In the Greek and Latin translations that had preceded Coverdale’s English effort, chased had been translated as eleos and misericordia respectively, the equivalents of the English word “mercy.”
As we stand before the New Year, we don’t know what’s in store for us. But there’s one thing we do know, and that is that we can leave the past, with all of its cares, pains, heartaches, and mistakes, behind. We can’t undo one single act or unsay one single word, but if we will give our grief and regrets to God, He can make this New Year a fresh start.
Every day of the past year is beyond our reach, and we should leave it there. God has the past in His keeping, and we should not go back and be tormented with regrets. It’s sad how some people say they’re trusting God, yet they worry about the blots and stains on the pages of their past.
“I knew you would come!” said a frail grandmother as she gripped my hand tightly.
It was Christmastime, and my children and I had been visiting retirement homes and orphanages, as we had done each of the last few years. At orphanages we would do our best to entertain the orphans by organizing games and performing, and we would also distribute presents that our sponsors had provided. We also passed out small gifts and performed at the retirement homes, but usually my children’s presence was enough to delight the elderly residents. “What adorable children!” was a chorus that I heard often.