WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE, WAS TENNYSON RIGHT?

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the poet Tennyson’s observation “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Apparently not everyone agrees with Tennyson’s observation because with the passing of time his observation has been turned into a question, “Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?”

My sense is that the answer to the question would depend upon people’s experiences with love. I don’t know if Tennyson was referring only to people, but we all know that even though we do love people, our love is not limited to people. For example, in my life I have loved many pets that eventually died. I grieved the loss of each one, but never regretted loving any of them.

In terms of my work as a pastor, I have served and left four churches. My first experience was as a summer intern youth minister. As I left that church to return to college I was stunned how hard it was for me to leave.

Following my summer internship I got a part time youth minister position close to the college I was attending. I stayed there for five years, but eventually accepted the opportunity to serve a small church near the East coast. As we pulled out of the church parking lot in our U-Haul I could not hold back the tears.

The same thing happened 10 years later as we went to the airport to head to California where I had the opportunity to plant a church. Some 33 years later I was embarrassed (although I should not have been) to cry as I began my drive to Texas after I said good-by to three of my best friends with whom I played golf.

All of us have lost loved ones (family and friends) and grieved their passing. I could go on with more examples but I think the point is clear. All of us have loved and lost in a variety of ways and situations.

Let’s return to Tennyson’s observation as well as try to answer the question people have asked in light of his statement. While some may reject it, I’m confident the majority would agree with Tennyson’s observation, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But how do we answer the question, “Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?”

In a 2012 article Dr. Jennifer L. Kunst suggests “We ask, wouldn’t it be better to protect ourselves from the pain of loss by never loving—really loving—at all?” Some may ask that question, but I don’t think many do. Dr. Kunst reminds us that “painful feelings of loss are an inevitable part of love. To be true to my best self, I must embrace the reality that the more I love, the more painful the loss.”

Perhaps the questions we might ask ourselves are, “Is it worth it? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” My answer is a resounding yes. I agree with Dr. Kunst, “How sad it would be to live our lives in a mode of self-protection that costs us some of the most precious experiences of life: to love and to be loved.”

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Love Stock photos by Vecteezy

WHAT IRRITATES YOU?

If everyone who reads this post would give two or three answers to the title question there would be a lot to read! I’m not asking you to send me your answers, but I would like you to think of a couple of things that irritate you. Most of us probably have a few in common, and a few of us may have one or two that are unique to us. If anyone says nothing irritates him or her, you are more mature than the rest of us, or you may struggle with honesty.

The reason this is on my mind is because I have been regularly irritated with many drivers on my side of the city. There are two specific places where I make a right hand turn from one road to another, and the road I’m turning onto has a lane exclusively for those entering. What irritates me is that almost every driver in front of me stops, looks back, and waits until there is an opening to move into the next lane while ignoring hundreds of feet of entry lane. These are not freeway entries, but the principle is the same. Why can’t these drivers see that and keep going?!?!

As much as I would like to, I do not sit on my horn and shake a fist at them. Surprising to me, I don’t even blow my horn or give them a dirty look. Believe it or not (some of you won’t), I patiently and calmly wait for them to get out of the entry lane, and then I model the way the engineers planned the road construction by slowly continuing in the entry lane and merging behind the person who irritated me. So far I don’t think anyone has caught on.

The purpose of this blog is not to impress you with my driving, or to instruct readers about entering surface streets that have entry lanes. In addition to asking about what irritates you, I want to ask you two additional questions: why does what irritates you irritate you, and what does your irritation lead you to do? Questions two and three are more important than the first one I asked at the beginning. I confess I am a person who is too easily irritated–and that is not becoming of a pastor, Christian, husband, father, or grandfather.

The reason I am convicted about being easily irritated is because in I Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul tells us love “is not irritable” (New Living Translation and English Standard Version) or “not touchy” (Living Bible and Phillips Modern English). I think some the other translations are more definitive: “isn’t quick tempered” (CEV), “is not easily provoked” (KJV), “is not easily angered” (NIV), and “is not quick to take offense” (NEB). Real love is more than just not being irritable–love is not easily irritated. In his commentary on I Corinthians, Gordon Fee tells us the verb is in the passive voice and “it suggests that the one who loves is not easily provoked to anger by those around him or her.”

You can see why I am troubled by being too easily irritated. I want to be a loving person; and being easily annoyed by what others do is not loving. It’s really not about being irritated by drivers who don’t understand the entry lane. It’s about being easily irritated by and expressing that irritation to those who are close to me—those I love. I think what I need to do is stay aware of my tendency, consider why I am too often touchy, and keep on monitoring and restraining my response when I am irritated. After all, these are people I love.

Where are you with this unattractive trait? It can be irritating, can’t it?

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Picture used with permission of our grandson’s mother, our daughter.

PUT IN YOUR NAME

Since it was Valentine’s Day this past Sunday I preached about love from I Corinthians 13. This passage is the most profound piece on love ever written and I call it “The Bible’s Love Song.” I call it a love song because it can be divided into three stanzas. And it is a love song like no other love song that has been or ever will be written.

Verses 1-3 provide the first stanza and it tells us Love Is Essential. Verses 4-7 give us the second stanza and Describe Love telling us what love is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Finally, verses 8-13 form the third stanza and tell us Love Is Eternal.

The first stanza proclaims that without love wonderful speech, great spirituality, and sacrificial giving aren’t that impressive. And it is a troubling thought to think someone could speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, have a faith that can move mountains, or sacrifice everything, and yet not have love.

The third stanza proclaims that contrasted with prophesy, tongues, and knowledge, love will endure and continue forever. In the here and now faith, hope, and love all remain. Nevertheless, some day our faith will become sight and our hope will be fulfilled. But because it is the greatest, love will last forever.

But it’s the second stanza I want us to focus on. In the message I did what I have done many times before suggesting that we all substitute our name for love in the description Paul gives. To make clear what I was saying I read verses 4-7 putting in my name in place of love. And after all these years of being a Christian, a pastor, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a neighbor, a friend, a teacher, and many other roles, I was overwhelmed. More than any other time I had used this illustration in the past, I realized how far short I fall in terms of living out and showing this description of love.

I invite you to read these verses (possibly out loud) putting your name in place of love:   4 [your name] is patient, [your name] is kind. [Your name] does not envy, [your name] does not boast, [your name] is not proud. 5[Your name] does not dishonor others, [your name] is not self-seeking, [your name] is not easily angered, [your name] keeps no record of wrongs. [Your name] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [Your name] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In doing this I hope you are convicted, challenged, and encouraged as much as I was when I did it in front of the church on Sunday. “Dear friends let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (I John 4:7 and 8).

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