For some strange reason, the phrase “loving well” keeps popping up for me lately. Just in the last few days, a writer I deeply respect used it in a blog post, my pastor prayed for it in a prayer service, and a friend wished for it in a conversation.
So I find myself wondering: what distinguishes loving well from – well, “just” loving?
As I try to nail down the distinction, I think of the people in my life who I would say love well and I ask myself, “What makes him/her come to mind?”
Yes, they put others’ needs above their own, certainly they allow themselves to be vulnerable in relationships, and no doubt they consistently strive to communicate clearly.
But here are some other characteristics that set them apart:
Truth-telling – When my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, my friend Marie didn’t ply me with platitudes or false hope. Instead, she said, “This is going to hurt. A lot. But I’m here for you.” She cried with me, prayed for me, and comforted me. And then she wrote a personal letter to both my parents telling them what a good job they had done raising me. That’s loving well.
Softness – When my sister is around challenging people, she looks for a way to see the image of God in them. She considers the value each person adds to the relational equation and finds a way to call out the tenderness she knows is in there. She measures her words and responds graciously; it makes me smile and think, “Now why couldn’t I have said that?” She loves well.
Generosity – My friend Marge doesn’t just give, she lavishes. She never misses an opportunity to encourage with her words and her actions, and always in an authentic, thoughtful way. She takes communion to the dying, she engages the quiet guests, she shows genuine interest in the small stories. Everyone feels better for having been with her. If that’s not loving well, please tell me what is.
Humor – My husband is not a sappy guy but he is always tuned in to what would make others smile. If he sees a John Deere lunchbox, he thinks of my brother-in-law; he scoops it up and stores it for months to give to him for Christmas. A Packers “snuggie” on display at a cigar store? He knows that will make my sister merry, even in July. The hot firefighter refrigerator magnet . . . that one’s going in my “stocking”. His sense of humor is one of his most endearing and loving traits.
Stillness – My Dad embodies John 3:30 by “decreasing so that He might increase”. He is happy to quietly take the supporting role in social interactions and let others have center stage. He regularly serves in many “behind the scenes” ways and that’s perfectly okay with him. But when an opportunity arises to share his faith tactfully, he steps up – whether it’s with the grocery store clerk or the stranger on the hospital elevator. No one loves better than him.
Hustle – My friend Tyler loves with his energy and humility. He’s a brilliant guy who brings his A-game to his career every single day but isn’t above getting down and dirty to do what needs to be done. He’s not a “spotlight” kind of guy – much of what he does is unheralded and perhaps unnoticed. But that doesn’t slow him down. He knows Who he really works for and that’s loving well.
The more I think about this concept, the more examples I can think of: people who put “legs” to their love, who find ways to love creatively, silently, prayerfully.
How about you? Is there someone in you life who loves well? What does that look like?
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