In grief we are very suggestible. Sometimes we take our emotional cues from the relationship of others to the one we grieve who has died. When “should” takes on larger than life or larger than death proportions, often we set ourselves up for an experience of grief that feels neither personal nor authentic.
When this happens, we may feel conflicted about reality versus perception. The emotions deeply embedded in our heart from years of relationship may not always agree with what others assume has been our experience of the one who died. If our feelings are conflicted or misaligned, it is tempting simply to sink into the bean bag chair of the status quo and try to find some relatively comfortable position that will accommodate our emotional load. But when grief compels us to identify and own what we are really feeling, we must take a sturdier seat, sit up, and pay attention to ourselves.
The intuitive reflex of our heart is to love openly, without reservation. This is how we were born, how we were pre-programmed for life. If our inward being and outward self do not match, we may question the very nature of love, especially when we grieve. Are we able to love? Are we somehow deficient in love? Are we truly loving in our heart?
When the spontaneous expression of our love is consistently rejected, we question whether what we offer is really love if there is no fire in our heart. The answer to this question is affirmatively yes. For this is other love, which in the end may be the highest and most self-giving love of all. Other love is as important and vital as deep passion, especially when a relationship seems irreparably damaged or defective. Other love allows us to co-exist emotionally with the heart of another without chronic conflict and despair.
Other love requires us to be strong and selfless. It is a surprising, self-emptying kind of love that intimates the magnitude of God’s love and presence within us. Other love requires us to rise above our personal pain to express the kind of love that transcends conditional limitations. Other love is the stuff of steadfast endurance and irrepressible faith.
Seldom do we give ourselves sufficient credit for finding within ourselves this kind of other love. Other love is born of deep, grace-filled compassion, even when we do not feel “real warm affection…” (Romans 12:10 JBP). Compassion is the impulse of our heart to feel the pain and suffering of another, “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8).
Other love is freely given from the unconditional depths of the human heart whether it is desired or received. Other love mirrors our inmost character and spiritual integrity, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering” (Psalm 26:1). Other love inspires us to discover the best of our self, “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best” (Philippians 1:9-10). Other love refines our soul.
Other love is a sacred response to the presence of God in our lives. Other love costs us nothing.
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)