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Finding Our Way on Love’s Two-Way Street

[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” —1 Corinthians 13:5

Love is a two-way street. It’s such a common cultural maxim that ‘love’ can be switched out with words like communication, friendship, collegiality, or trust. Those are certainly relational endeavors that require mutuality. But love is something that allows and even requires more grace than any other two-way street.

I love people in a particular way. This is because I am a unique person, as are we all. I try to show love to others in ways that feel authentic to me; like they’re the right thing to do. And those expressions of love are different from person to person based on the relationship I have with them. Whether and how to give a hug to someone, depending on who that someone is, for example, is a gesture I take seriously in giving that person love that is warm and true.

While it’s good to take seriously the love we give to others, it’s when we take our expressions of love too seriously that we risk being unable to receive it in its many forms from others.

If I pour all my energy and focus into how I love others—making sure I have loved well and loved enough—there is no room for me to acknowledge when someone is loving me, let alone to notice their expression of love toward me. Getting so caught up in showing love to someone with the right etiquette and in the correct manner can quickly turn into my feeling so justified in doing right by that person that I might fail to recognize their love for me; how they show love toward me by their own unique expression. And if I cannot see when someone else is showing me love in their own particular way, all that energy and focus I poured into loving them might begin assuming I’m doing all the work on the two-way street, and then devolve into resentment.

Here is where the grace that love allows and requires comes into play. Love is patient and kind, yes, but it also does not insist on its own way. And by not insisting on its own way, love does not become resentful. By not believing that my way to love others is the only way to do it, I am set free from stubborn expectations and molded by grace into a posture of receiving whatever outpour of love is coming my way, be it from a friend’s short text message, a stranger’s smile, an enemy’s silence, or a family member’s quirky opinions.

I wonder what would have happened if, when the magi from the East showed up with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Mary and Joseph had said, “Our child doesn’t need those things. What are you thinking, showing up unannounced with such ridiculous stuff? Give us our space. Get lost.” The Christmas story and this season of Epiphany would look a lot different. Thankfully, the magi and the Holy Family showed us that love’s two-way street is paved with grace.


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