it don’t come easy

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust
And you know it don’t come easy
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time
And you know it don’t come easy
—Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy”

Valentine’s Day we think about love: we dream about it, we throw money at it with flowers and cards and candy and romantic dinners. Love has become a consumer holiday. And yes, it is a lot of fun.

Love, as our culture defines it, is giddy feelings, starry-eyed gazing and soft music, walking arm-in-arm, experiencing exciting physical intimacy, laughing and enjoying life, building memories and building a life together. These are all aspects of love, and they are all beautiful.

But true love is even more. Love that lasts “don’t come easy.” Love that lasts is not just dreamy walks and candlelight dinners with beautiful people. It is also arguments and dirty diapers and financial stress and sinning against your beloved (sometimes dreadfully) and being forgiven and getting wrinkles and a pot-belly and, sometimes, losing touch with the “feelings” that started the whole relationship in the first place.

I quote an old chestnut that is still singular and unconquerable truth: real love is commitment. Despite the dreadful pressures of life in a broken world, choosing faithfulness and humility causes love to flourish and widen into something deeper, purer, more confident, and more exquisite than quick and easy “butterflies,” pleasant though they may be.

Real love is action (John 3:16). Real love is messy; it steps into the filth and the bitterness of life (John 1:9-12, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Romans 5:20). It embraces darkness, and by doing so dispels it (Isaiah 59, Ezekiel 16, 2 Corinthians 4:6). Love is shamelessly romantic (Isaiah 62:5, Song of Songs 1:2-4, Hosea 2:19, John 3:29). Love is not concerned with its own reputation (Jeremiah 31, Micah 6:3, Philippians 2:7-9). Love gives reward when all that is owed is the harshest punishment (Hosea 11:7-11, Jeremiah 31:32). Love pursues even when the pursuit is unwanted (Isaiah 65:1-2, Ezekiel 18:31-32). Love shines its light into every dark corner, reaches without hesitation into the most wretched sewer, freely offers mercy to the hardest heart, responds with tender love to the cruelest hatred. Love does not tire or fail in its relentless quest to restore the beauty originally intended for all humanity and all creation.

We do not understand love like this, because we are finite and because we are fickle. We fear that if we “love too much” we will not have enough for who and what is truly important. But love is not an object of limited quantity that must be divided up and parceled out piecemeal; it doesn’t grow thinner the more it is spread around. The more we love, the larger becomes our capacity to love.

So, Jesus has shown us what love truly is by the way he came, the way he lived, the way he died, and the way he rose again. Love is incredible and eternal, but it “don’t come easy.” Just ask the Son of God.

When all we know of this world has ceased; when history has wrapped up and “all things new” has begun (Revelation 21:5), love will exist unhindered and unchallenged. Anything that fights against love or raises its twisted head against goodness will be stripped of influence and power. For endless reaches of time (and, I think, space), love will reign unchallenged.

When all else fails, love prevails. Both now, and for eternity.

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