"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
February 19, 2015
The Hard, Sweaty Thing Called Love
by Hannah Bird

I write about love a lot. Love is hard for me.

Lately, it seems the world is awash in suffering and pain. The news is full of murders and executions. There is killing and killing to avenge killing. There will be more killing to avenge that. It is the gruesome version of the Song that Never Ends. Children are stolen and sold and broken.

It feels hard.

My own life is similarly adrift. Some of my favorite people are suffering more than I can comprehend. A beautiful boy was born to parents who want him and love him. But his body will not let him stay. A flaw in his tiny lovely head will take him from the arms of the mother that loves him so.

Other loved ones have been lost. More still wobble at the edge of the precipice. There is so much grief. So many tears. That are secret hurts and stockpiled sorrows coming into view. There is too much ground to cover between loved ones.

“The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth said. It presses us down. It keeps us up at night. It walks with us as step ever quicker trying to outpace it. We are running and it chases us. We seek shelter forgetting that we are the shelter.

Love is the only shelter. It matters when we aren’t good at it.

We tell ourselves that we love. We love our children by correcting them and fixing them and agonizing over them. This, we tell ourselves, is love. We do these things because we love. Our worry is love. Our work is love.

We are unkind to others and then call that better than love. We act like love is letting things slide. We tell ourselves we are keeping an eye on the big picture. We pretend that when people talk about love, they are talking about letting others off easy.

The truth is, love is the hard way. It took a perfect person to come and teach it. It takes a lifetime to learn. It is not love, but hardness, that is easy.

There are people who picket funerals to talk about their hate. We can see that. We know that is wrong. People went to court over whether or not they have to bake a cake for someone whose life choices they don’t support. That is less clear.

When Christ went to the Garden of Gethsemane, he took some friends. He knew what was in store for him. Even he, perfect as he was, was daunted by the tasks ahead. His friends fell asleep. He chastised them asking, “Can you not watch with me one hour?”

Are we better friends than this? It is easy to sleep. It is easy to look away. But he asked them to watch with him. Love watches and bears. Love chooses to look.

Twisted love says, “I love you so I will teach you a lesson, even if I must behave in unloving ways to do that.” But we are called by Christ to love. We call ourselves to teach strangers lessons. “The greatest of these is love,” Christ said. We nod and disbelieve. The greatest of these is to change and push. We offer moral lessons when listening silence is called for.

Simon of Cyrene saw a beaten and bloodied man sagging under the weight of a cross. He didn’t try to teach or correct. He didn’t stand at the side yelling, “Lift with your legs.” He didn’t tell Christ that he should have handled the trial better. He didn’t worry about himself.

There was only one loving thing to do. So Simon of Cyrene picked up another man’s cross and carried it.

Love watches. Love lifts. Love is an aching back. Love is sweaty. Love is sitting near to grief that is unbearable to observe even when you cannot help. Love is sitting near so that the grieving one is not alone.

It is hard. It’s meant to be. It is the commanded path to emulate Christ. It is not the commanded path of being in charge. It is not the supervisory role of deciding who is worthy of love.

We often have the legal right to be unloving. But we have no such moral right. We certainly have no right to assert that we are following Him as the basis of our right to expressly not follow Him.

Bake a cake. Lift a cross. It is not their only hope. It is ours. Christ’s salvation did not depend on that lifted cross but perhaps Simon’s did. Lots of businesses can make a cake. But no one else can fulfill our responsibility to love and do so abundantly.

It is not them that need the cake. It is us that need to stop failing Christ in his own name.

He knew we would struggle with this. He tried to help us by labeling it as the second great commandment. The first was to love our Father unreservedly.

First, love.
Second, love.
Always love.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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