I used to think that love never ended. That once I loved someone, I would love them forever. I even said that to a boyfriend in college. That wouldn't have been a big deal except that we had only been together for 2 or 3 weeks and for all intents and purposes I was "in lust". But whatever, that's water under the bridge. The point is I thought that love was permanent, not that you didn't have to work at it, just that it persisted.
In college, maybe early seminary, I read "The Five Love Languages", which I've posted about before. After reading that book I came to think that first we feel loved by someone (that's what we mean early on when we say, "I love you" what we really mean is "I feel loved by you."), and then as we progress in our relationship we learn to really love them (as in the verb: to love, the action of loving, showing love, etc). In addition to distinguishing between feeling loved and actually loving someone, I also came to figure out that in the sense of feeling loved--that can end. Others around us can stop showing us love, and in turn, we stop feeling loved, and in many ways that's what folks mean when they say, "I don't love you anymore." (I don't feel loved by you anymore).
Clear as mud?
Good. So the next stage was when I was in seminary and lots of folks around me were getting divorced. One friend who had been married for 30+ years and had tried to work through her husband's affair, and then another friend who had been married for 25 years and they had "drifted apart". After witnessing their pain and the dissolution of their marriages, I started to believe that love can end. Love ceases. People grow apart. It can all fade away.
Recently, my faith in love has been restored. I won't go into details because it would take far too long and most of it really isn't your business to know anyway (no offense intended), but at the end of high school and early in college I basically lost 2 of my closest friends. I had been friends with both of them since I was very young and we had gone through school together, academic competitions, musical performances, cheer tryouts...these two friends had been with me, in some form or fashion, for years. Then, for a variety of circumstances (completely unrelated) our friendships were broken. We stopped speaking. Letters, emails, calls, they all stopped.
In both cases I had *caused* the break. But in neither case had I tried to be malicious or hurtful. In fact, in both cases I had wanted to protect the welfare and interests of my friends. For years I have held the hurt of two broken relationships, as well as harbored guilt for what I had done. I also was torn between whether I had actually done something wrong, and if in fact I wouldn't do it all over again if the same circumstances presented themselves. Neither situation was simple. And the best course of action had been cloudy at best, but I had followed my heart and tried to love them even through tough circumstances.
Losing these friendships meant a lot to me. I know that high school friends are *meant* to be lost as we grow and develop and move on from adolescence. But I also know that these two people were not merely friends, they shaped me and my experiences with them, in many ways, made me the person I am today. There are others from my past that I don't miss. Others I don't even remember. But these two are special.
Today they are women. Women with careers and partners. Women with stories I have never heard, and probably never will. But today, nearly 9 years later they are both back in my life. The healing has been gradual, not all at once. For one it began with a brief online conversation a few years back when another friend was getting married. For the other it was a wave across campus, then cordial hellos, and now real conversation.
I am not, and probably will not be, best friends with either of these women. But these days, that icy silence, the festering wounds, the deep resentment--they are gone. We can talk, laugh, and reminisce and it is good. It is not perfect. But it is good.
I can't even express in words the gratitude I have for the way these women have drifted back into my life and for the forgiveness they have offered.
That may seem like a long random tangent from my beginning thoughts on love, but really, it comes full circle, for where before I had believed that love could end (and probably even believed that the love between these friends and I had ended), now I know that I was wrong. For these women and I have been apart and there has been no time, no opportunity, to rebuild the love shared between us, and yet, my love for them is strong. It is immense and overwhelming, for love never died. Love endured. Through silence. Through unanswered calls and emails. Through anger and hurt. Through bitterness. Through personal growth. Through transition into adulthood. Through absences and distance. Love endured.
"Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag and it is not arrogant. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." ~1 Corinthians 13:4-8a