A Big, Little Word


Love. Four letters, one of which is not often used. The average English word length is 5.1 letters, which puts love below average. In texting and on Valentine hearts we even reduce it to three letters: LUV. It’s a small word but highly cherished. Who doesn’t like to hear, “I love you”?

Depending on the trustworthiness of the speaker, those three words will either satisfy our souls or alert our defenses because, of all the words in the English language, that one must be spoken sincerely.

We use it lightly to describe our affection for things, such as the beach or chocolate or a favorite restaurant. Last week I wrote about loving brown. We can be flippant and careless and funny with love, but when it comes to people we had better be sincere.

Love for a person is more than warm feelings. It speaks of commitment and service, sharing and sacrifice. But even that doesn’t paint the whole picture. Perhaps two of the greatest components of love are acceptance and forgiveness, which go hand in hand and challenge us the most.

When I love you, I accept you if you don’t think or act like me. Not only am I okay with that, I appreciate it and you. I value your differences, which means that somewhere in my weird psyche, I forgive you for being you. I live and breathe forgiveness, never taking offence at your unique self or opinions or mannerisms. I forgive the hurts, even when inflicted purposefully, spitefully, meanly, because I have decided to love you.

And you is more than singular. It’s also plural—whole people groups, religious groups, national groups, language groups, political groups, ethnic groups, crazy, out-there, nothing-like-me-groups. I forgive you, I accept you, I love you. At least I want to.

I want to live love because I have received love. I know the joy and soul-satisfaction of being actively accepted and fully forgiven, even when I’m nothing like the One who loves me. Too often I’m not at all like the Father who gave me life and love because, unlike Him, I cling to grudges and call bitterness sweet and find satisfaction in withholding forgiveness. Still, He accepts me, forgives me, loves me—and I’m changing. Day by day, I’m becoming more like Him as I accept, forgive and love others because He’s showing me how to do it.

It’s a little word, love, but it’s packed with all that nourishes, satisfies and fulfills us. Karl Reden wrote a song in 1880, Love Makes the World go Round, and I think it really does, because giving love is giving life.

Image compliments of SantaBanta.com

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