The Most Abused Word in the English Language

Love.

I walk into the washroom at the McDonald’s, alone for once. They just redid the place. Nobody’s initials scarring the stunning retro orange paint on the metal stall panels yet, no phone numbers of despised high school classmates with slutty one-line propositions.

Just that word, scrawled twice in permanent marker. The letters scroll in a cursive style so that the top of the L swoops over forward like a weeping willow branch. The vertical line leans back at an angle. The small curlicue at the bottom forms the tip of half a heart before the rest of the letters take off into the air. Twice, experimentally, and then, up and right a little more, a question mark like a hot air balloon escaping into the sky.

Alone in the room, without dryers and politely apologetic noises of women shuffling carefully past to avoid the other person’s germs, the quiet canned music is audible. Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s Complicated.

Not As the Gentiles Do

I’ve heard sermons preached on how screwed up the world has it. Emotional this, hormonal that, self-absorbedly the other. On what Christian love is. On the God-shaped void, the social duty, the marital pact.

Cheery, chipper phrases about going out and showing this person or that some good ol’ Christian love. As we conceive of it, usually. Go to the soup kitchen. Visit a friend. As even the Gentiles do. But unlike the world, we have the divinely-granted option of fixing our eyes on Jesus, who is the definition of love, instead of relating to everything in life entirely from the epicenter of the inward void.

No, Really, Not Like the Gentiles

At the same time, I tend to cringe from using the L word, because it’s often a flippant synonym for “church potluck” or “fall work bee” or “how’s the coffee tasting this week?” It’s “we’re all together on this” until it’s not.

I just don’t believe in that. What I am fundamentally interested in is the events that ask things of us that we’ve never considered. The same epistle which says “God is love” also says, “and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

And I am fundamentally interested in doing that and being that. It fascinates me, the muscular feeling of unconditional fidelity. As if I am more whole and healthy than I’ve ever been when my mind is bent upon it.

Marriage Mundane

I walk back out to the truck, my worn-out boots hurting my feet. My toes are skinned. My love sits in the little kids’ interactive music class so I can go buy a new pair, even though he literally falls asleep sitting up at one point. Halfway home, our F350 full of children wavers in its path.

“Do you want me to drive?” I ask.

He’s too tired to answer. He just reaches for my hand, silently asking me to keep him awake.

I snag his fingers. “I should say: I’ll drive now.”

Being himself, he insists on a couple more miles before we trade off. I bring him home. We unload bins full of groceries, repackage bulk hamburger into meal-sized amounts, download a freeware vocal aid Teach has recommended to help me learn how to help the girlies in their singing. The bratties head off to bed. It’s 8:30 and it feels like midnight.

The Circle of Two

We sit at the table with hot chocolate and whipped cream. He tells me sailing stories he’s read lately, windships and the people who escape to freedom aboard them.

I lean my chin in my hand and watch his beautiful eyes, the strong stubbled line of his jaw. I could drown in the way he talks when he’s alone with me.

The gentle sweetness between us is like the pastel of sunset touching the darkening blue east, or the copper-bronze of dead leaves rattling quietly in the autumn breeze. It’s there, you can’t touch it, but it soaks right through you; and like my prairie, it makes a person who they are.

Of Mice and Men

I was going to be  a professor, holed up in a university, in a city, teaching music and probably owning a gaggle of cats. I had definite, confirmed plans to keep the men to minor dalliances and lead my own life as I pleased. But then he came along, God came along, and I now find myself doing things I’d never considered.

We go to our own space, our room at the far end of the house from the kids. He racks out on the bed with the latest Good Old Boat magazine. I curl up against him with my head on his ribs. And that is definitely not the end of our evening, but it’s the end of this part of my tale.

The Wide Field of the Heart

I asked him when he finally understood that I loved him, for he knew the brokenness I came with, from all the things love isn’t. And after all, it’s a word I barely say. I might not be able to carry through on what it calls for.

“It’s not that,” he said. “I thought you would stop loving me and find something more interesting.”

“I never stop loving,” I told him, only just realizing it in that moment myself.

That’s my true place, like a note sung where the sound is purest and most powerful, able to fill a room with only half a breath behind it. This is my song.

Song of Forgotten Words

There are many kinds of love, named in Greek and Hebrew words we just don’t have in our tongue — erotic passion, the passionate fidelity of true friendship, and something that’s beyond human comprehension, the impassioned, unconditional love of Jesus Christ in God.

I’ve learned them all, because I’m fundamentally interested in how powerful they each really are, originating as they do, in their right form, from where there is no turning or shifting shadow.

My citizenship is there. Why would I act to place my loyalties in any other country?