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She said she loved him.

When Emma was in the fourth grade she told a boy, her best friend, and first crush, that she loved him. I thought it was sweet but the boy’s parents did not. While Michael and I were volunteering for the hundredth pancake breakfast fundraiser for our church school, trying to keep up with the number of orders, making sure bacon didn’t burn, and flipping pancakes, the parents came into the kitchen. Perfect timing.

Emma told our son that she loves him and we are concerned, they said. He is too young to have a girl say she loves him, they explained, and while they um, love Emma, they would prefer if she kept that four-letter word to herself. Michael kept on flipping pancakes while I told the parents not to worry, that we were “on it”. The problem is, we didn’t know what we were “on” exactly. Emma had not put together a flash mob proposal. She told her friend and crush that she loved him. Because she did. They were best friends, had fun together, and each thought the other was cute. They told each other important fourth-grade secrets, ran around in the cafegymatorium (their word for the multi-purpose room at school), and laughed like the kids they were at each others’ jokes.

Sounds like love to me. And so we did nothing. Being “on it” meant letting Emma express love to somebody who wanted and needed it.

These days we don’t use the word love enough. We have been conditioned to reserve that word for family members and the person we are currently interested in having an intimate relationship with. The word has been deemed one that is so weighty that we call it “the L-word”, gasp when our friend’s new love interest “says it first”, and hesitate to say it to people we actually love. Why?

Why do we reserve love when it is actually the path forward through this mess called life?

While there are endless layers to love and what it represents in different circumstances, relationships, and cultures, I would like to distill it down to a simple basis from which to live in the way Jesus wants us to. Consider for a moment that love is the experience of identifying with others, in an unselfish way, and caring for them without conditions or requirements. It is not lustful, not egocentric, and is given freely. It is a way of being, not a gift conferred to only those few who align with us. It is for all people to give and receive. It is the most sought-after feeling people seek for the entirety of their lives because love represents acceptance, belong, worth.

Don't be afraid to say I love you. Love is why Jesus died for us.

Love is why Jesus came to earth.

Love is what God sent His only Son to earth to teach, demonstrate, and die for. Love lepers. Love the disabled. Love the poor. Love the sinners. Love those considered undeserving or undesirable. God loves us all but we don’t seem to get that, which Our Father realized. So he sent proof. He sent Jesus to say, “My Father is your father. He loves you. It’s a fact. Stop questioning it. You don’t need to prove your worth but if you could step up your game and get on with loving others as yourself that would be great.”

And then Jesus was killed for us. The ultimate act of love. Wrap your head around that one. It’s not easy.

So I guess what I’m getting at here is that I’m challenging us all to be a bit more aggressive in loving others, in word and deed. If you feel intimidated by this challenge, let me give you some examples to get you started:

My pharmacist was talking with me the other day about some challenges I was experiencing and told me that she loved me. I thought all I needed was a script filled, but she knew I needed to know that I was loved in the middle of the mess.

One of “my people” is an accountant, and she has been signing up clients who don’t have computers for their covid vaccines because she loves them.

A staff member just marked the first anniversary of her father’s passing. I told her that I love her and am proud of her strength as she journeyed through all of the difficult firsts the year brought with it.

I told my fitness coach that I love her and am inspired by her.

I told the CVS sales associate, who was annoyed as the day is long, to hang in there through her shift because she is loved and what she does is important.

If you want to see shock on a CVS associate’s face, tell them they are loved.

So friends, find the courage to love out loud. Be as “on it” in your life as we were with Emma in the fourth grade. Let love be shared, be said, be demonstrated. Don’t reserve this gift that we are all in desperate need of out of fear. Giving love away is something Jesus was so darn good at.  He taught us how to love each other, but we have lost our way. Let’s then, as we walk toward the cross on Easter Sunday, the one he died on, remember His teachings and walk in love.



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