There are many measures we use to determine the depth of love. The Bible talks about being willing to “lay down your life” for someone as the ultimate expression of love. Most often this expression is more of a nice thought than something someone actually approaches. The thing about it is that taking this literally isn’t so hard if you don’t go out of your way. How often in your daily life do you have the chance to die in someone’s place? So more difficult for most of us is taking it as a call to put others in front of ourselves–to die to ourselves–and out of that show great love.
Wednesday was my son’s birthday and I was struck by seeing that kind of love in action on that day. I saw it in my wife, Michelle, and it wasn’t because of some huge, over-the-top display of laying down her life (desires, comfort, wants). It was because of a number of little things piled on top of each other. In some sense I think doing little things like the ones I’ll describe are even more indicative of selfless love than a big thing (though those are often difficult and certainly do indicate love). The reason is in a big display of selflessness we may know it’s the right thing to do and be moved to action. But to do little selfless things for someone has to come from a heart of selfless love. These aren’t the things you’d manufacture because you’d probably never think about it. In a culture of the big and grand, perhaps we should pay attention to the small as an indicator of the heart.
Here are some of the things I saw in Michelle:
- She spent most of two hours blowing up balloons to fill the play room. Why? Because in passing one time my son said he’d love a room full of balloons for his birthday. I helped her but was satisfied with the results long before she stopped puffing. Even after getting light-headed she took a little break and kept going.
- She made coffee cake for him in the morning and after pulling it out of the oven stood there looking at it. I walked over and she said, “Which piece looks the best?” So considerately I replied, “they all look good. He’ll be happy with any of them.” “I know,” she said, “I just want everything to be perfect. Then she continued scrutinizing the cake till she found the perfect piece.
- She spent hours playing with him and his new Legos. Michelle doesn’t love Legos, but our son was so excited about them and he feels love when people spend time playing with him. I know she would have done it as long as he wanted to.
- She suffered through the movie G-Force (a splendid Disney flick with talking hamsters) because it was the one he picked out at Blockbuster.
- She thought to buy whipped cream for his birthday ice cream when we made a quick stop at the store. He LOVES whipped cream.
Once I really noticed the selfless love she was displaying all day for him it struck me as incredibly beautiful.