This year I made one resolution: “Live in love.” I think I should have picked something a little easier like “lose 50 pounds.” But I figured that living in love covers all other resolutions. Are you living with someone who has resolved to lose weight or quit smoking and have a perfectly clean house? If they haven’t also resolved to be more loving towards others, than I suggest you get out of the way of their new resolve. It might not be pretty.
If you ask my family how I am doing, two weeks into my new year’s resolution, they would probably laugh and say, “What resolution?” I didn’t tell anyone about my resolve because I didn’t want them to hold me accountable! They also might tell you that my resolve must have something to do with whining and ranting. I whined about the Christmas tree still being up, the extra clutter in the house, about the lack of snow and the cold weather, all at the same time. I whined about most things these past two weeks.
But somewhere in the midst of my whining, life happened.
My world was once again turned upside down by a medical crisis with Johanna. Last Sunday we were celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday and Johanna was grinning ear to ear as she presented our friend with a special painting she had made for the occasion. But by Monday morning, she was complaining of severe headaches and began vomiting and exhibiting signs of increased pressure in her brain.
It was somewhere in the midst of cleaning up the vomit and trying to calm my racing mind and whirling emotions that I was reminded of my new resolve to live in love. I realized then and there that there that living in love meant offering up my struggles as a sacrifice of love.
Offering up something as a sacrifice is kind of foreign concept to us in this fast paced, technology driven society. We want what we want instantly and without a whole lot of struggle. We expect answers at the touch of a screen and communication abbreviated in a text that takes us only seconds to read and respond. Facebook has become the way to connect and our input on each other’s lives is reduced to hitting the LIKE button at the bottom of a post.
It is when we are faced with life challenges like job losses and health crises that we are faced with the reality that love requires sacrifice and indeed it finds meaning in sacrifice. Anyone who tells you that love is a 50/50 proposition is not a very happy person. Love requires sacrifice and plenty of it. That 50/50 proposition is frequently applied to marriage, probably because we love to imagine that a man and a woman committing the rest of their lives to one another should be offering their fair share of the sacrifice that love entails. This sounds lovely, but that’s also the reason most vows involve that “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” clause that is so romantic the day of the wedding but so hard to swallow when your spouse has the flu. Love requires service if it is going grow and that takes sacrifices of time and energy.
I had made a lot of plans this week to get my house cleaned and organized after the endless holiday celebrations. I also wanted to focus more on setting goals for my business and spending time with my daughter who is returning back to college in Ohio today. I was looking forward to a long drive with her, listening to her ideas of life and plans for the future. But all of that was impacted by caring for Johanna and wondering what our next step should be. Speaking with doctors on the phone and on email and hours waiting in the ER made me realize that I either had to offer this struggle up as a sacrifice of love, putting my perfect plans aside, or be frustrated and angry that my life is just not my own.
I did a little bit of both. But the most meaningful times this week were the ones when I decided to live in love by offering my service as a sacrifice of love. It’s kind of like weeding an overgrown garden. Gardening takes a lot of hard work, but out of the weeds, you can usually find some beautiful flowers to make a bouquet.
This week I was reminded of the story in Matthew 26, where a woman anointed Jesus with a jar of very costly ointment. The disciples were really angry and asked why she was wasting her money when she could have given it to the poor. But Jesus defended her and said she was performing a loving service because, “you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (v. 11).
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know if the person who interrupts our plans today will be in our lives tomorrow. When we make a decision to offer our service to them as a sacrifice for love, then love finds greater meaning. Even if the deeper meaning of our sacrifice escapes us in the moment, some day it will all make sense. When the demanding toddler graduates from college, we are going to say love was worth the sacrifice. When our aging parents are laid to rest, we will long for the hours we spent listening to their stories rather than getting that job done or phone call made. All of our important feats and accomplishments are washed away when we do what love requires and pay the price of sacrifice.
On New Year’s Eve I watched some of “Live at Lincoln Center”. The evening ended with a moving performance of “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line. The words from this song —
As we travel on, love’s what we’ll remember
and I won’t forget, won’t regret
what I did for love.
are a strong reminder to all of us — no matter what we resolved to do this year.
We may or may not finish that project, land that new job, or lose 50 pounds, but we will remember and be remembered by the sacrifices we made and what we did for love.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.