Last year, the ladies of Team UNL would race to the kitchen to see who would win the honor of cooking the Sunday meal for the FOCUS fam. A hospitality RACE, I tell you!
“Would you like some water, Emily?” “Would you like another green tea muffin, Joe?” “Would you like me to run to the store and get more Candy Corn for you, Megan?” “More wine, Martha?”
If someone said no, you better believe that we would hit you with our FAMOUS line.
“Let me love you!”
And how does one respond to THAT?
“Gosh, no! Keep it! Thanks though!”
No way, Jose. You say yes. You say yes with a smile on your face and you LET your sisters and brothers love you. Right?
It was a brilliant, somewhat frustrating, but altogether beautiful act of service that allowed us to love each other beyond words. (And I took every second of it for granted.)
Now, in NYC, I find myself searching for the kitchen. Searching for a way to love the people around me, and a way to let them love me. It’s funny, in Nebraska it’s “Let me love you!” As in, I’m going to love you no matter what you say. Thus far In NYC it’s, “Let me love you?” As in, I’ll love you if you give me permission to.
At first, this really IRKED me. Since when did I need permission to love?
“I think I’m going to be your friend, is that okay?” “Can I ask if falling in love will work for you? Cause I’m cool with it.” “I think honest conversations form friendships! Do you think honest conversations form friendships?”
No. No. No. Just let me love you, dangit! It doesn’t matter what you say!
And then I was hit with a NEW YORK NEWS FLASH.
It does matter what you say. Love isn’t love when it’s forced. Forced love is selfish and selfish love doesn’t exist. (Yeah, that one kicked me in the gut, too.)
New York is teaching me the other side of that beautiful phrase. “Let me love you” without the option of saying ” No”, isn’t love. We must be given the choice. Love is a choice.
I cannot force anyone to let me love them, because to those who do not choose it, it becomes a burden.
How often does this happen to people when it comes to their relationship with God? We are forced to go to Catholic School. We are forced to go to CCD. We are forced to go to Sunday mass. All the while, we have no clue that Jesus is actually talking in a New York accent. And by that lame joke I mean, he is saying “Let me love you?” Question mark. God’s love, His true, unconditional love, isn’t forced upon us. He offers it freely. Of course you’re going to hate mass if you feel forced to be there. I did. But it wasn’t till I learned that our Lord was giving me the choice to choose Him, that I learned the beauty of everything he stood for. The mass became a masterpiece. (No pun intended.) It became an opportunity to watch my Lord choose ME, by sacrificing His life. It is everything that I know love to be now.
So, well played, New York. You continue to knock me down with realities that blow my mind and purify heart. I’m done demanding love.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
Ask. Seek. Knock. And they might just let you love them.