“Love is an action verb. You can say it all you want, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”
That phrase was mentioned to me this past week, from a family member of a patient. She is the primary caregiver as well. Our discussion, well her time of release, ended a month long hospital stay that included precious moments, heartbreaking decisions and many memories, some good and some bad. It was a chance for her to let go of these long standing burdens holding her down. I gave her the time and space to do just that. Our discussion for me was the end of three weeks of struggling; working hard and doing some deep and agonizing soul searching to do things I’ve never had to do before. I didn’t realize until today the impact that her statement had on my life in just a few short weeks, by way of the last seven years.
Last week, I heard on two separate occasions the impact of love a family has for one another. Two separate families said goodbye to their “babies”. One family took their youngest ones to college for the first time. One family said good-bye to the youngest as she left for graduate school. Two went to another part of the state. One went to another part of the world. In both situations I asked the mothers, “Will you need pastoral care after they are gone?” Do you know what they both said to me? Almost word for word they said, “Linda, they are so happy, how can I be sad?” The other said, “Linda, she is so happy about going, I just can’t be sad.”
I was blown away by their joy. Of course the parents want their children to be happy. That is the purest definition of family, of love, of parenting. I didn’t hear any pain or sadness. I know they will miss their babies, but they are happy for them. I have no doubt in my mind that the parents celebrated these new adventures with their grown up babies. They didn’t say anything to make the children feel guilty about leaving or going so far away. No parent in their right mind would do that to their child. I also have no doubt in my mind that the families will make every effort to support and see their children, to visit and reach out in many ways, to show them that they are loved and not forgotten. These families will think about them often, so proud of who they are and what they will be. What a gift of love, of love in action.
I see love in action through daily photos of precious newborns, photos of creation, life, and nature. I see love in action through the words of teachers and new school years. I see love in action through the photos of children on the first day of schools, families so proud of their children growing up, siblings hugging one another, making funny comments about their sibling rivals. I see love in action through the work of my home church as they bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the RVA. I see love in action when first responders do all they can, nurses who care for their patients through the very end, and patients who donate their organs in order to save a stranger’s life. I see love in action every single day.
I am pleased to see how churches and universities are treating some of my friends in their call to ministries. They celebrate with them new callings, new children, quality leadership, with words and actions of affirmation. They celebrate in sharing summertime stories and prayers in their university chapels. It’s a joy to see status updates of ministers who are celebrated by their congregations (in whatever form that may take) in care, in food, in gifts, in affirmation of self-care, with supportive words, in time away, and by standing together not only in the light, but also in the dark. That is love in action.
It is with a heart full of thanksgiving that I feel love in action through messages, a phone call, a letter, a gift, surprise packages, a hug and a visit. I see and feel the love of those who care. Prayers, thoughts and hearts are shared from Tennessee, Roanoke, Fendall Ave, Monument Ave, New Hampshire, North Carolina and all the way from Alaska, all do a heart good. A busy schedule was changed for a last minute lunch arrival a week ago, included words of encouragement, words of support and affirming words of noted change, growth and maturity. Hugs, smiles, and joy were expressed when a surprise visitor made her way into the sanctuary, from dear people not seen in a couple of months. They all do a heart good. Two people who just met you, willing to spend hours in an office to help you through some difficult steps, then made the effort to reach out, call, text and paged when the work was done, to see how you were holding up. A common love for care, truth and voice, all in the work of action shared this week too. Love in action. It is a beautiful sight to feel.
I have to proclaim a love in action that was shown in ways that haven’t been felt in a long time. When life got difficult, stubborn and demanding, old voices and old ways of treatment could have made their way into the mix of these past few days but they didn’t. In all honestly, some voices did and a small amount of self-defeated action temporarily took over. But then it stopped. It stopped when she realized that she was worth more than what others were telling her and showing her in their actions, or lack thereof. It was the love in action for her well being that made the difference this week. It was a focus on heart, mind, body and spirit that got her through a tough month. This action clearly showed growth, maturity, affirmation and hope that she hadn’t seen in a long time. It brought tears to her eyes, heart and weary soul.
Love is indeed an action verb. You can say it all you want, but it’s what you do with it that matters most, not just for others but also for yourself. Things are changing. Roots are weaving their way through a foundation of word, prayer and fight. Expectations are gone, well at least at a minimal. The need for others to see how they have hurt you is no longer needed because you can’t change anyone else but yourself. Their actions don’t matter anymore. They can’t. Words can say quite a lot but the actions make it perfectly clear. I’ve learned some mighty lessons in the past few weeks, lessons that I pray will last a lifetime.
This post may not make sense to many of you. Hell, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I write what’s on my mind and in my heart as I continue this journey. I just hope and pray a word or two will find a way to your understanding and life. Love is an action verb. You can say it all you want, but it’s what you do with it that matters most.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39 (The Message)