I came across a very well-worn teddy bear the other day. An eye was missing, stuffing was exposed, and something had been spilled on it matting its hair. I started to wonder what in the heck had this poor bear been through to end up so battered but I was sidetracked before I gave him another thought. I remembered the bear this morning. I was looking through pictures on Instagram and came across a post from one of my friends, Yousef. It was this picture of his mom and dad. The picture reminded me of a well-worn teddy bear being held comfortably in the arms of a very loving little girl. For me, the picture was the epitome of love. The picture could represent so many different things depending on the person seeing it but for me I saw beauty amidst the pain.
Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
You see I believe what the Bible says about love, a Corinthians kind of love. Nowhere does it say love is easy, to the contrary love is hard and often times painful. In order to love you have to be susceptible and openly expose your heart to attack. I believe love is patient and kind and all too often it is hard to be either one of these things on a daily basis. It doesn’t envy or boast but we see examples of this around us every single day. It isn’t arrogant or rude but we are bombarded with these things constantly. It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth… even though you wouldn’t know it if you watched the news. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… I want that! Love never ends. In Yousef’s words, “Love is simply the act of surrendering yourself to another person completely and unwaveringly because life without surrender would be unfulfilled”. I believe in the version of love the Bible defines; and because I believe it is as rare as any treasure we can ever hope to find, I am hypnotized by pictures that portray it like the one above does.
I asked Yousef to tell me about the love his parents shared. I doubt he realized his words read like a Disney story where love overcomes all adversity. They were from two different worlds. She was an American Christian and he was a Persian Muslim. Their love could not be contained within or defined by religion. Their love was more than their cultural backgrounds or the idea of race. Nearly 30 years together and they are in the process of saying goodbye. He has cancer and she is adhering to the vows she made to him all those years ago to stay in sickness…until death do you part. It is overwhelmingly heartbreaking to actively lose a little bit of somebody everyday especially; someone you LOVE. Somehow she has the strength to make each kiss and each embrace count. She has the courage to love in every way possible knowing that it will make the departure even more sorrowful and painful. You see this is how you know it is LOVE because she is patient and kind and full of strength despite living through one of LOVES most painful side effects.
I do not know his parents personally but I know Yousef and he is the most joyful, loving person I know. His parents somehow birthed a child with a heart bigger than most I know. Because he is not selfish and because he is not afraid to love he is in for his share of heartache. What he doesn’t realize, perhaps, is that he is being trained to withstand any heartache that comes his way.
I believe we all have bits and pieces of this kind of love, we play around with it, sometimes abuse it, and very often we take it for granted. We need to be reminded by photographs like this one what LOVE truly means. Understanding love starts from the inside and works itself outward. Love isn’t always passion felt kisses, it isn’t always running hand in hand in the rain, it isn’t always beautiful and happy; it is at times horribly gut wrenching. But it is what makes life worth living. In the end love is not represented by pristine beauty, it is found in the scars of the well-worn and barely recognizable teddy bear.
Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Novel of Cupid and Psyche