I’ve tried to look at myself through God’s eyes, and usually the only thing I can say afterward is, “Ugh…don’t bother.” I know me, the things I’ve done, and the person I am, and I can’t imagine God looking too kindly on me. But the Divine doesn’t have my vision. God knows that I’m not who I think I am – God knows me for who I truly am and keeps close by me: propping me up, giving me food and drink, and helping me through life. God keeps close to me and stays by my side because God loves me – not for anything else, not for any personal gains – the Divine just loves me.

For the past two years my parents and my aunt took care of my grandmother as she lived out her final years in the local nursing home. Essentially a full-time job and taking shifts, the three of them made sure that my grandma’s needs, wants, and desires were met. They gave her more attention, care, and love in one day than most ever receive while coming to the end of their lives in that building. The three of them sacrificed their own wants, their own desires, their own needs for the sake of their mother. They did it because they loved her – not for anything else, not for any personal gains – they just loved her.

Being involved in youth ministry over the years, I have witnessed parents struggle with how to deal with their teenage children. I’ve heard (and continue to hear) countless stories of kids having reckless sex, experimenting with drugs, behavioral issues, academic struggles, broken friendships, betrayal, lies, deceit, manipulation, depression…the list is as long as there are kids in this world. These parents are often at their wit’s end – not knowing what to do, where to go, or how to deal with their children. These parents read books, attend seminars, watch videos, ask questions, and keep their doors (to their houses and their hearts) open for when their kids are ready to return home. They do it because they love their kids – not for anything else, not for any personal gains – they just love them.

I’ve witnessed friendships turn to turmoil as the balance shifts from give and take to just take – one person sapping money, time, and possessions from the other. These friendships were once strong, with each giving and receiving equally with generosity and gratitude, but for whatever reason the relationship devolved into something terrible and greedy. The friend who is taking may not realize that the balance has shifted because there are deeper issues that they’re dealing with. But the giver keeps giving out of love for their friend and hopes that they will return to old times soon. They do it because they love their friend – not for anything else, not for personal gains – they just love them.

Over the past few months I’ve wrestled with love in my own life: I have a friend who became a romance, and while it was well and good, she was not entirely well and good, and wasn’t quite ready for a relationship. As we ended things, I was heartbroken because I had begun to invest my heart in her and had hoped for something more. For me, it’s easiest to end the relationship with a complete omission of that person from my life. But with her, I choose to remain friends and I continue to spend time with her – going to the store with her, meeting her in raggedy bars, studying with her, breaking bread with her, praying with her, discussing books with her, watching bad reality TV shows with her. I remain in her life, and she in mine, because I love her – not for anything else, not for personal gains – I just love her.

Truthfully, love isn’t always hearts and flowers and happy times (though sometimes it is) – usually love is mundane, chaotic and occasionally the undesired things and moments in life. Love is the good and the bad, the ugly and the pretty, the messy and the organized. Love is found in taking care of others, relentlessly holding out hope for the lost, sacrificing self, in waiting, and in being present.

May we love as unconditionally and wildly as we have been loved, and may we never back away from it.

.much love. sheth.

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