“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.“– Maya Angelou
Did you ever read a quote that stayed in your mind for a long time? One that stuck with you, that haunted your dreams and wormed its way into your heart? This Maya Angelou quote did that for me.
I have a list of tiny bits of ideas that I would like to write about sometime. Anyone reading my list would shake their heads in puzzlement. Some of the ideas are goofy, some are esoteric, none are fleshed out. Bible verses, random quotes, and my own shorthand brand of scribbles populate the list.
The Maya Angelou quote has been on the list for a long time, but I never quite knew what to do with it. It speaks to me, but I could never explain why the quote is so significant to me. Maybe I still have not figured it out. We will see.
When I was a young girl, before I married or had children, I had a sentimental view of love. Maybe it was from all the bodice-rippers I read as a teenager, full of lusty pirates and repressed noblewomen.
Oh, I knew my parents loved me, of course. They had to love me; they were my parents, and parents naturally loved their children. The fact that they loved me, I never questioned.
I suspected my sister loved me too, even though I think I may have been somewhat of a pest. I adored my sister. She was glamorous, went out on dates, wore high heels and bracelets, and drove a car while smoking a cigarette, for heaven’s sake!
I vaguely knew God loved me, or at least Jesus did. We sang a song about it in Sunday School.
“Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.”
This was my experience of love.
My hubby and I met (in calculus class) during the first semester of our Freshman year in college. I wish I could tell you that it was love at first sight, but I can’t. We had a tempestuous on-again-off-again relationship that culminated in marriage the August after we graduated.
Maybe it wasn’t the smart thing to do; maybe I should have searched for a person with whom I had a steadier connection, but I was in love. The fact that my parents saw Bill as a “Bad Boy” made him even more appealing to me.
After marriage this “Bad Boy” worked at the same job for over 40 years to provide for the kids and me, never once complaining. OK, he might have complained a little bit, but still…He was a good, dependable husband and involved father. “That’s what love is“, I thought, a man whom I can count on.
When I was a young mother, I did not want to leave my children to go to work all day every day. Bill and I made financial sacrifices so that I could stay home with the kids. I loved being a stay at home mom. I was never bored or felt unfulfilled. The kids and I had little adventures, did some crafts, went exploring, cooked together. “That’s what love is“, I thought, my heart overflowing with tenderness.
My sister moved to New England (from Pennsylvania) when she got married and we didn’t see each other often. When we did get together, with her children and mine in tow, we always had a great time.
I can remember one outing we took to an amusement park when we got pelted with hail the size of golf balls. As we made a mad dash for shelter, her middle daughter, always a dreamer, stopped to examine a hailstone on the ground. I scooped her up and ran with her the rest of the way. “That’s what love is“, I thought, protecting my sister’s children as my own.
As my parents got older, I helped to care for them. First, my father got sick. As his health declined and venturing out of the house became more difficult, my hubby would cut his hair for him. I remember watching this former “Bad Boy” gently trimming my frail father’s hair and thinking “This is what love is“. Forgiveness, dependence, compassion, and care.
My mother had a stroke three years before she died that left her wheelchair-bound and suffering from dementia. She still loved to go out to a restaurant for dinner, though. I remember when Bill helped take her out for dinner, he would tell me over and over “Don’t let her order the ribs. ”
They were messy to eat and her dexterity was severely compromised. When my mom would ask “Isn’t this the place with good ribs?” he would reply. “Yes, it is. Is that what you want?” then ask for extra napkins so Mom could enjoy her feast. This is what love is – embarrassment, tolerance, benevolence, and generosity.
Yes, my concept of love evolved over the years. As I matured, so did my idea of love. Nothing had more of an impact on how I understand love than how I understand God, however. This awareness informs all of my loving relationships.
It says in the Bible that “God is love“. God is love. C.S. Lewis tells us that “God is not like a tame lion“, and this I believe with all of my heart. Love, like God, is fierce, strong, indestructible, and immutable.
Love, like God, can survive anything. It burns with a holy, unconsuming flame. Its power can overcome all obstacles. It suffuses our lives with light, gives us strength, and fuels our hope. It arrives in our lives, panting and breathless, wanting to be given a chance.
I thought I understood love when I was younger, but I know now that I was just playing around the edges. I did not comprehend its might and its reach. Its intensity and inviolable nature I could not fathom.
The Maya Angelou quote says all of this to me. It makes clear just how determined and optimistic love can be. It hints at promises kept and barriers overcome. No wonder it made its way into my heart and would not leave; that’s how love works. The least we can do is to let it in.
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