After a recent encounter with my mother, I got to thinking about how shallow words can be and just how prevalent that shallowness is in the Christian church, where love, true love, is supposed to abound. Here are two examples that came to mind: 1) I love you, and 2) I am, or have been, praying for you. Today, I want to focus on the first one: “I love you,” Now, back to my mother.
When I first started this post, I found myself going into every sordid detail of the past two years involving my relationship with my mother. I suppose it was cathartic, and in some ways I wanted others to understand just how horrible her behavior has been, but no one else needs to read all that. So let’s just say she would tell me that she loved me “unconditionally,” but then act as if she wished I did not exist. To date, she has no idea why I gave up Christianity and she has no idea why my marriage of 24 years ended. She claims to not understand the changes that have taken place in my life, but continues to refuse to discuss them with me and continues to basically ignore me; yet, she contends that she loves me “unconditionally.” Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that something you say to someone who has done something really horrible and you want to let them know that in spite of that, you love them? Otherwise, why would you feel the need to add the “unconditional” caveat?
Anyway, we are officially “estranged.” Our last conversation ended with my mother saying, “I love you and always will,” (At least she didn’t say “unconditionally” this time) to which I responded, “Emptier words have never been spoken to me mom.” She countered: “So be it.” Now, if one of my daughters had said something like that to me, I would have been devastated and done everything in my power to make things right. Not my mom, my Jesus loving mom. I picture her saying “So be it,” and then skipping off, tra la la la la. She had done her duty as a Christian mother. ~The End.
Over the past few years, I can’t tell you how many Christians have told me they love me; this would include my sister, as well as my mother. In spite of all this “love,” they have been absolutely absent from my life. Well to be fair, they did show up occasionally, usually to crush my fingers as I clutched weakly to the edge of the emotional abyss, but mostly they were absent.
The thing about Christians is they think that by merely saying they love someone, they have done all they need to do. This has not been my experience alone; it is wide spread. I saw it in my daughter’s youth group. They would tell her they loved her, but when she was struggling and needing love the most, all she had was words. They couldn’t be bothered with any awkward problems. They needed to plan the next trip to Mexico, or make their next promotional video. The sad thing about that is these youth leaders are teaching the young people to do the same thing—how to give Christian lip service. They model the very idea that saying I love you is enough, nothing more needs to be done, and they wonder why young people are leaving The Church in droves. I used to see the same thing on Sunday mornings in the worship service, during the “meet and greet” time—words of love were everywhere. There was no love, just words—empty, empty words. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Christians are incapable of love. They love, but most of the people they express love to, they couldn’t care less about.
Love should be an act, not a word. As a non-believer, that is the way I want to live my life. My daughter recently said to me, “Mom, if you never told me you loved me again, because of the way you love me, I would still know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you did–more than anything.”
That, my friends, is love.