In February it is common to see evidence of Valentine’s Day in every supermarket and drug store. Talk of love will filter into daily newspapers, popular magazines, radio and television shows. Here in the U.S. in February, "love" is big business, selling millions of cards, flowers, gifts, and restaurant meals. And, big business aside, love is certainly worth noting and celebrating whenever and wherever it occurs.
By contrast to the hoopla made over romantic love, I find myself reflecting on other more enduring forms of love. Recently, my husband Adam and I attended a wedding, and Adam interviewed many of the wedding guests on videotape as a gift for the newlyweds. He queried many of the long-committed couples for their advice on how to have a good marriage. What emerged was a host of suggestions that urged patience, forbearance, laying aside one’s anger, and prayer.
These good suggestions easily apply to the task of parenting as well. There is, perhaps, no opportunity so commonly available in which to learn the discipline and joy of self-sacrifice than in becoming a parent and giving one’s best to it. The needs of small children are constant and demanding; the needs of older young people are no less challenging, but in different ways. Part of parenting well is to learn to lay aside one’s own needs and desires, often temporarily and sometimes for a very long time, for the sake of a beloved other.
Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt.16:25) I’ve struggled with the meaning of this passage, wondering if it exhorts us all to actual martyrdom, which many Christians, including some Quakers, have suffered. At the least, I believe it asks us to sacrifice our self-centeredness to the greater joy (and discipline) of following Jesus’ teachings, which lead us to the experience of mature love. Everyday life within our families and communities offers endless opportunities to undertake this. But in following those teachings, we also may find that we risk the ultimate self-sacrifice.
Like many other Friends, I have been praying and watching the news for any sign of what has happened to Friend Tom Fox, of Clear Brook, Va., who was kidnapped last November 26 in Iraq along with three fellow members of a Christian Peacemaker Team, seeking through nonviolent means to bring an end to the war and U.S. occupation there. At this writing, more than a month has lapsed since these four were taken hostage and word of their condition has been lost. Each of them is committed to the CPT "Team Statement": "We reject the use of violent force to save our lives in the event we are kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who has harmed us." Is there greater love than this, to risk laying down one’s life not just for one’s friends, but also for one’s enemies? I wonder what a whole well-funded army of such peacemakers, motivated by Love, might accomplish, even as I pray for the release of these four.