I used to not like giving love. I said that I loved. I loved my wife and child. I loved my family and myself. I loved Walmart (that’s another discussion) and bacon. And perhaps...I loved God.
I did give love. But, as with money, I was kinda stingy with it. I hoarded it and I saved it. When I got it, I withheld it and protected it. I made sure it was well invested, and I would try to wait for the perfect opportunity to give big. I made sure my interests were preserved and that I wasn’t giving too much in case my love wasn’t returned. Managing love helped me be in control of how much someone did or didn’t get. I controlled whether this or that person received it or not, depending on this or that view, belief, etc. I would only love when it was worth it. I would only love when I was required to. I would only give love when I could guarantee something out of it. I would only give love when I had the opportunity to love in big ways.
"I withhold love,” I confessed to Lisa one cloudy Florida afternoon. Moving had brought us into the liminal space; it stripped us down from workaholism, status, money, comfort and busyness. Without the work to distract me, I realised how unfeeling I had become. Life was business, love had been reduced to transaction:
I will love myself when I _______ (lose weight, win awards, accomplish this, look like this, feel like this, etc).
I will love others if they _______ (approve of me, do something for me, achieve this, think like this, act like this).
I will love God when He _______ (settles this for me, delivers me through this, gives me this, clarifies this, makes me feel…).
But I learned something from this uncomfortable realization:
Love begins now, not later. Love begins with the small, not just with the big. Love begins when I have absolutely nothing to give, not after I have everything to give. It starts with my emptiness and my neediness. It could start with waking up. With looking into my son’s eyes when he’s talking to me and not on the phone. With an intentional smile. It begins with the mundane. At the gym on that boring (but tedious) stair climber. It begins with people who are not like me. The insignificant, the least of these, the poor, the unpopular, the ones who don’t have my views, the ones who don’t approve of mine.
Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. Proverbs 15:17
If I waited to give love until I was completely full of love, I’d be waiting forever until I started loving.
So I decided to switch things up for a few months and here’s what I did. (I’m warning you now, it is not going to be super profound):
Love in the small.
Small Things with Big Love. Not waiting for the big opportunities to give love but starting with the insignificant, the mundane, and the beige (God, I hate beige). The acts that will not make a big impact or change the world. It could start with folding laundry. And I'm not just talking about displaying love by doing chores. I'm talking about the way it's done. To intentionally use the opportunity to be present for the tiniest bit of love in the act of folding instead of just rushing through it. The act of giving love in the insignificant and the least impactful way was an eye opener for me.
Love in the process.
Delight in the process. I don’t have to wait until the final outcome is perfect. But to give more value to the process and less to the final outcome. A lot of times we’re stingy with love because we fear what kind of outcome we’ll be receiving. I was working on a short film a few months ago and I decided that I was going to try something different: stop controlling the outcome and focus on making every single creative choice out of love. Am I taking this shot, asking this question, making this cut, using this lens, explaining this idea, out of love or fear of outcome?
Love with my all.
Giving my all does not mean killing myself over giving, but being willing to risk not getting anything back when I give. It means not being afraid that the investments may or may not have returns. I have to believe that love is not something I manufactured, but a gift that I do not own. And if I did not own it, I have no control over when or how I get it next. The more I surrendered to that power, the more it helped me not be in hustle or hoarding mode. I hoarded because I did not trust that everything in life was a free gift. So give your secrets to success. Give your sources. Give your recipes. Give your ideas.
Love for my all.
I will delight in all that I am, NOW. Not just tomorrow. Not just my past. But who I am now. Not once I’ve had less darkness and more light in me. Not after I decrease the bad and be better. If I only love the light in me and hate the dark in me, I live with a divided heart. And I cannot live and love with a divided heart.
We don’t have to be God himself to love well. But even God himself made himself small in order to love us in full. Real love is not in greatness but in the unseen and thankless. It is in the small things.