Sunday, April 1, 2012

There Is Love

There are challenges galore. Issues abounding. Trials unending. Pain to the max. Questions unceasing. Fears flaunting. Anger spilling. Faith floundering. Faith growing. Faith rooting. Hope deepening.

There is love. "Love" is the one we often, for some reason, leave till last. But it's there, even if unspoken. We all need it. We all crave it. We all are geared and wired, as people and as God's reflections, to give and receive love. We are pitiful, pitiable, sad, angry, resentful, and downright miserable to be around when no one loves us. At all. Not even the dog.

Love is essential in in the cancer world. It's not like we don't know that. But sometimes we can forget what the face of love looks like. Unfortunately, English only has the one word and then we have to qualify it and describe the kind of love we're talking about. Greek has three great words. They all are translated "love" but you have to look at the word to know which "love" is meant. All three words are used in the Bible and they are: agape, eros, and philos.

Agape is an unconditional and sacrificial love. It is the word used to describe God's love and is used in 1 Corinthians 13, for example. Eros is a passionate, intimate love which can be sexual in nature but not necessarily. And, philos is what we often call "brotherly" love, friendship, loyalty.

In the world of cancer, or any other world really, we need the philos that support systems give. Patient and caregiver, alike, need a healthy dose of philos and will likely get it from different people. And that's fine. We need people who understand where we are and what we're dealing with. We need someone who is there on the same road we're on. We need someone we can call in the middle of the night and say, "Man this sucks." We need a shoulder to cry on and someone to get our morbid jokes. We need someone we can say the "d" (death) word around and them not fall apart or tell us not to "talk like that."

Some of us will need a lot of philos and some of us will be happiest with one or two friends who come through for us with philos when we need it, and even when we think we don't. It's going to be dang hard to do this without philos.

Eros is another matter, unless you're used to eros or want to be used to eros or were used to eros and eros just isn't happening any more. But we can do this without the eros if we have to. Eros, typically (and frankly in the world I'm used to), involves only two people. Depending on everything the patient is dealing with and going through, there may be a dry spell or two. A couple can get through a dry spell. A drought, on the other hand, is not good but people get through droughts, just like nature does. Love is still present but often people can equate "sex" with "love" and if the eros ain't happening then love must not be present anymore. The accompanying feelings that are often bubbling near the surface in this situation can lead to a famine if the couple isn't careful. Once famine conditions set in, watch out! Death often accompanies famines. Need I say that that isn't good?! Particularly if "other sources of water" are sought.

This is where we may need to remind ourselves, person with cancer and caregiver alike, what the face of love looks like. It doesn't look like a Playboy Bunny or Adonis. While that may be nice, while lust may be nice, it's not love. I'm not just talking about the love between a couple, I'm talking about the love we share as humans, the love we have for our fellow mole-mates or melapals as in my case, the love we have for our family and friends, the love we have for God, and, yes, even the love for the one we are in a relationship with.

I use this often, but I like the way The Message words 1 Corinthians 13. Remember, the love here is agape and it's an unconditional, sacrificial love like the love God has toward us.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.

 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Often this passage is read at weddings and is called The Love Chapter.  And while it fits, and while it also describes God and the love God has for us, Paul didn't write this for a wedding. No. Its context is speaking of the gifts God has given His Church. We are all given different gifts and love is the greatest gift of all. We, in the Church Universal, are all parts of the body of Christ and we need to know how to relate to each other in a God-pleasing way and that way is the way of agape. Love.

Person with cancer and caregiver/spouse/significant other, both, are called to show this kind of love.

Person with cancer: it is not up to your caregiver/spouse/significant other to show all this and you do nothing but reap it without sowing some love yourself. "We reap what we sow" should work in the love department but sometimes it doesn't. Those who show us love want and deserve love in return. They put our best interests first and we need to put theirs first too as best as we can at any given time.

Caregiver/spouse/significant other: You did not ask for this journey any more than we did but it's where we are. You have a right to feel fearful sometimes, angry at other times, hurt and disappointed. You have the right to grieve plans that won't materialize like you hoped. You can walk away and many do. This is too much for some to handle. Love is a decision. Can you choose to agape and philos with or without eros? Thank you when you choose to love even when it's hard. God bless you.

Support system: You're probably on your own unwanted journey, too. I know this stinks, but thank you for choosing to be a prop, shoulder, heart, and hanky. Thank you for sharing agape and philos with those on your path. God bless you.

There are many faces of love. God's is One. May yours be another.

I leave you with Peter, Paul, and Mary's There Is Love (The Wedding Song).

There IS Love for the journey. Thank you for sharing yours with me and with others.

I am truly grateful!