My six year old son said the other day, “Dad, I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
That one, 4 letter word, has seemed elusive to me for many years. I know what it means and I’m able to speak and write on it but I’m not sure it’s ever been embedded in me on a gut level. I’ve studied the different Greek meanings of that mysterious word for years. Yet it was not until three weeks ago, in a small town in Colorado, that it made sense to me in a very deep way.
I’ve been married 18 years to Wendy Elizabeth Norris. When she walked down the aisle in Tifton, Georgia on May 24, 1997 I thought I knew what love was. I had no clue. I think there are some things that can only be learned through many years of trial and error. It would be amazing if the concept of love could be “imparted” to us but it just simply doesn’t work that way. Learning to die to yourself and lay your life down for someone else seems to be a lifetime adventure.
Wendy and I decided to spend some time in Colorado at a Christian Retreat Center. I thought we were just going for a good little “tune up.” God had something else planned. For me, it was nothing like a tune up. It was a complete overhaul. God spent 10 days giving me revelation on what love really is.
You would think that I would have many encounters and revelations with God on a ten day retreat but that was not the case for me. I had one encounter; and it happened to be at a Crossfit Gym in Buena Vista, Colorado. After one of my workouts, I walked outside and caught my breath as I looked at some of the most beautiful mountains you have ever seen. As I was standing there I said, “Lord, what do you want from me?” Immediately, I heard, “Greater love has no man than this, than he that lay down his life for his friends.”
That was it. No manifested presence of God. No angelic visitation. No tingles or goosebumps.
God quoted scripture to me.
Our ten days together was one long conversation on what love looks like inside the context of our marriage. For Wendy, her love language is service. One of the ways that she desires for me to love her is for me to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids to take to school. Funny how things come full circle. My son flippantly used the word “love” in his comment on a sandwich. A few weeks later, God would show me that making that sandwich is a small glimpse into what love really is.
I’m not sure it’s possible to love someone without it costing me something. “Laying my life down for someone else” can look like many things and have many degrees of cost. Yet, as I continue to process the idea of love, I am realizing that it always should cost me something. In that cost, a more intimate connection with Jesus is the reward. Loving Him and the one I’m serving sounds very similar to the greatest commandment.
Come Lord Jesus. Help me with this.