For those of you who are familiar with my writing, this is not a typical post. I love to laugh and find humor in most situations, and while I still have such a joyful spirit, much of what I’ve learned lately has been a bit heavier and more private. No funny stories or clever puns this time.
My grandma passed away earlier this month and my Dad, her son, delivered her eulogy with such precision and poise that I have yet to go a day without thinking of the legacy he so eloquently unpacked. He spoke to the Fruit of the Spirit she so readily displayed, articulating everything that made her wonderful. Along with my Grandpa, their marriage and Christ-like examples are the deep roots that make The Griffiths the strong family we are.
I admit that I “oh-so-humbly” thought to myself through most of the eulogy, “I’m so glad that I learned that from Grandma. She might have had that particular fruit in greater proportion than I do, but I have a little of that character too. I just have to pray that the Lord continues to develop it.”
Except one. The way my dad spot-on articulated a particular fruit that she lived out so well forced me to confront any delusions I may have had of possessing it in any proportion.
He said about her: “She was rich in love. She had the kind of love that was unselfish, full of self-sacrifice, and so much concern for others. Her love was not exclusive for her family, but for everyone she had the privilege to be around.”
And he was right. Her love wasn’t exclusive for only those who loved her back. Mine is.
After re-reading C.S Lewis’ The Four Loves, another way of putting it is that her love was completely rooted in “give-love” not in “need-love.” Lewis describes the difference: “Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer; Need-love says of a woman “I cannot live without her”; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, and protection.”
If I really get reflective, it’s an ugly reality to recognize that I love very few people with give-love. Don’t get me wrong, I love fiercely, with much concern and hopefully self-sacrifice …but exclusively for my family and a handful of friends who make me feel secure that our love is mutual. That is need-based: I can give love because my need for love is met. How often do I share that kind of love without intent rooted in receiving love back? I’m not alone in this – most of us suffer from this cautious, yet self-serving approach. In fact, I think that my Grandma is one of the few people I’ve ever known that truly displayed give-love.
Honestly, I believe it’s because vulnerability is necessary in order to display give-love and my grandma made vulnerability look easy. As C.S Lewis points out, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.”
What a terrible way to live! No wonder she joyfully risked living out the command in 1 John 4: “Since God loved us, we also ought to love one another…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
She offered give-love because she could love others first, not waiting until she felt “safe”.
She could love others first because she was vulnerable, willing to love someone that may leave her hurt or even brokenhearted.
She was vulnerable because she knew – and embraced – the perfect love of our Lord that drove out her fear of wholeheartedly following His command.
So she fixed her eyes on the Lord (not on the other person, like I do), lived out his great command to love, and saw Him pour out on her a rich blessing of more returned love than she could fathom.
I’ve got some work to do on displaying this fruit – I’m not good at it! But I’m trusting that by obediently following the command to love others fearlessly, the Lord mitigates my risk because He is my Perfect Love. In the words of a song l love to belt out: If I told you that I love like an ace, I’d be lying because I made some mistakes…but I’m trying with perfect faith.