Among one or two other minor things, it occurred to me recently that I need to be willing to allow the basic definitions of words to change. Merriam-Webster would love this idea wouldn’t they? … seeing how fresh new dictionaries would be in demand again. Surely some of the reason for the need of fresh definitions would come from cultural change – new words are applied to old circumstances and vice-versa, but there is more to my mini-revelation than social shifts and cultural change. There is also personal shifts in perception and personal change in how I grasp reality – at least there should be – and if there is not then I’m probably not learning anything, I am just being lazy and avoiding adventure and discovery.
It may be however, that even as I lock my front door on my way out to adventure, that stagnant or inept definitions of words in my thinking could be keeping me inside the same four walls forever.
Some words, like lasso or soup or kerfuffle, can easily find a new facelift simply by reading and/or writing some poetry (which I highly recommend – to myself often and to yourself here as well) but other words have been so heavily used in so many venues that they become like that time when your favorite song got used in a car commercial. At first you were excited about how many other people would now have a chance to favorite it – but before long you find it overused and cheapened, and you find yourself hating what you once loved.
And that brings me to the one specific word I have in mind: love.
You are going to find this odd, but the first thing that comes to mind at the word “love” (and has for many years) is not valentine’s day, or cheesy romcom’s or Barry White songs (although they all get in line). No, the first thing to my muddled mind is this:
Ahh.. There now, doesn’t your heart feel warmer?
It is clear from both Tevya and Golde that love is more than a four letter word, that love does what love does whether or not there is credit to be collected. Golde says… “Do I love you? For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes…” If that is not love, what is?
Can you imagine going to God with this question? “Do you love me?” and getting a response of … “Do I love you? For all these years I have brought sunshine and rain. For all these years I have pumped your heart and expanded your lungs. For all these years I have guided your footsteps even when you wanted no guidance from anyone. Do I love you? oy vey!”
I’m beginning to feel like Job… but anyway, that wasn’t my real point… back to Tevya and Golde…
Notice right there – that moment where she asks herself… “Do I love him? … I suppose I do” – and… queue the kleenex 🙂
Love takes on a fuller definition, a larger meaning and significance, and feeds a hunger that had been largely ignored = apparently for a whole 25 years. In reading Peter Kreeft in recent days I found this occurring for me. There have been connections around love that I have largely ignored (although for only 22 years). Early on in my exploration of reality and the gospel of Christ, I began to understand the concept of identity, and it’s importance.
I saw how sin changed the way our first parents saw both themselves and God. I saw how God responded by dressing them in garments of skin and I made the connection to the garment of Christ described by Paul in Colossians.
I read the shema! and I understood how love was integral to holiness and relationship. I connected some dots between my thinking, my feeling and my actions to suggest love could motivate each – and should.
I began seeing bumper stickers everywhere saying God is Love! and soon grew tired of the phrase just like the car commercials that ruined all of my favorite songs. But this week a connection was made that brought about a much fuller idea of the definition of love. When we say “God is love” I believe we may be making a statement of identity – that “love” is a part of how God sees Himself (if such a thought can be ventured…).
While sitting on the mount, I hear the following words – “that you may be the children of your Father in heaven” – another statement about identity that I have largely missed. Just as I need to learn how to see myself “In Christ”, valuable and beloved, I also need to learn how to see myself “as love” in a like manner (but certainly on a smaller scale) to how God sees Himself as love. Love is not just something I’m supposed to do… it is something I’m supposed to be.
I like how Kreeft combines the concept of love in with the “self” categories of heart, mind, will, etc. I am not just a “will” I am a “love”. I know it feels weird to say… fattening the definition of some words just works that way I suppose.
And then another connection came. I was reading about Brother Juniper – the Friend of Francis, Fool of God. It struck me as odd that he would strive to be a “jester of the Lord”, but then I remembered Tevya standing behind Golde, seeking confirmation of her love for him, more than willing to be a fool for it, and I understood.