Love is Not the Greatest

I’ve watched approximately seven Boy Meets World episodes in their entirety, though plenty of passing clips. I’ve blogged about this show in the past, including its spinoff, because my younger sister would watch it after school, and the strong friendship between Corey and Shawn always kept my eyes craning.

Lately, life circumstances have again caused me to draw from the well of this TGIF sitcom.

Deep into the series, Topanga’s parents get divorced, and it scares her into breaking up with long-time boyfriend, Cory. “It’s just too painful to think about,” she tells him.

Ending up like her parents.

Broken up.

Devastated after decades of love.

Why put yourself through love for the inevitable chasm to come?

Indeed, relationships seem to equate devastation. I feel it swirling inside me. I see it forming on the horizon. Like doom sliding down a mountainside.

A few years ago, I hit one of my roughest patches. I’d just moved back to southern California — for the second time — and had nowhere to live. My old roommates had graduated college and moved back to their respective homes, and I wound up moving to the arid foothills of Yorba Linda. For three long months, I lived in a middle-aged married couple’s spare bedroom, cooking in their kitchen, making small talk by the washer/dryer, and walking up and down their carpeted staircase lined with African masks and bones.

My car also happened to self-destruct for my first week-and-a-half back in SoCal, and I felt utterly separated from anyone who loved or even might love me. My old roommates. My church. My family.

How on earth did I get here?

There in the hills by an old train track, a new Brandon Heath song tugged on all my existential anxieties. I once did a countdown of my favorite Brandon Heath songs and placed this one at #2, but if I had to redo the list today, it’d undoubtedly be #1.

One day, this — all of this — will turn to dust. This coffee shop where I type these words. This laptop receiving them. This website posting them. This server storing them. This living breathing person embodying them.

And so the same with love. To dust.

It’s been said that of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love. And I’ve never understood why, quite honestly.

Wouldn’t faith be the greatest? Isn’t faith in God or Jesus the starting point for eternal life?

Or hope — isn’t hope the greatest of all? That all the wrong things will be made right, that this life we live has meaning, that we will survive and live and one day belong, forever?

Love is the greatest — it feels like a cop-out. “Love never fails” and “love is forever” feel cliche and forced and not at all true.

Topanga’s parents and countless innocent kids’ parents get divorced all the time.

Affairs happen.

Lust and lies infest the soil.

Friendships fall apart.

People hold grudges, deservedly or undeservedly, and love doesn’t survive the war.

Love fails. Love fails all the time.

How on earth is love greater than faith and hope?

We can’t run from what is coming . . . down the mountainside . . .

~ ~ ~

I don’t remember where I recently heard it — I’ve been racking my brain trying — but I’m appreciating this explanation for love’s worth. Even though I’m still not fully on board with it.

Faith and hope — these are things practiced and yearned for in this life, only to be fulfilled in the next.

But love — love spans both realms. We love temporarily here, and we will love eternally there.

In eternity, we will no longer have faith and hope. But we will still love.

And I kinda get this concept mentally; I do. I have an amazing family, and my family has always been there, and, thus, family feels forever, I guess, even though I will most likely watch my grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles die while walking this earth.

And I have some amazing friends. Really, I do. But most of my friendships fizzle after only a year or two, and the ones that have somehow survived longer feel destined to a similar fate.

They’ll mess things up.

Or I will.

Both have happened.

We’re all human here; I don’t suppose I can blame them more than I can blame myself.

For most of my life, love has felt like an hourglass already tipped over, already losing sand, and I’m rushing to squeeze in at least a last goodbye before the next hourglass is turned, and the next, and —

Love feels less like clouds spanning multiple realms and more like doom crashing down the arid mountains.

And I don’t know where that leaves me right now. Other than yearning with faith and hope that love will survive this broken realm as promised. Faith and hope give me more reason to take today’s steps, and tomorrow’s, and the week ahead’s.

It’s difficult to open my hands and trust love sweeping over me. How I need love to prove her worth and crash into me, time and again. Whether I believe in her or not.

To invoke another Brandon Heath song . . . maybe love will find me, flow through me like a river.

  • naturgesetz

    To annoyingly state the obvious: Love is the greatest because God is love.

    “Love doesn’t run. Love doesn’t hide.” But we can run from it and hide from it.

    Physical things don’t last, but spiritual things don’t have to end. I haven’t seen “Boy meets World,” but based on your description Topanga doesn’t have to stop loving Cory. She can still love him after breaking up, and maybe she didn’t really need to break up at all. Maybe she could have been helped to deal with her anxieties in a better way.

    Still, it’s true, change is the rule in this life. But God’s love doesn’t change, and human love can endure too.

    Clichés? Sorry. I’m just trying to console you and encourage you.

    Hang in there, Tom. May much love find you and hold you.

  • JK

    My parents got divorced. But I can tell you with certainty, the day my father died my mother cried from a place of love that never disappeared. Was it the same love as their wedding day? No. But it certainly didn’t fail. It was, if I might be so bold, a truer love than the surface level one felt on their wedding day or when dating. Having now been married for 10 years, I can understand that. The love I thought was so deep when I got married is different now. Truer. More real, even if not as flashy. It’s a quiet love that doesn’t need fireworks, even though sometimes fireworks still join in the party. On the outside I imagine it would look like a lesser love instead of a greater one.

    I had a friend recently that betrayed me. (Though that word seems awfully melodramatic, it describes the situation.) Now anytime I see him, I am upset by it. Without love, there would be no bitterness. If love wasn’t there anymore, I wouldn’t feel anything. It might fade, in time, but upon hearing of his death even decades later I would most certainly still feel from that place of love. (And, as an aside, I need to keep working at not only forgiveness but joy in all his successes. That’s the only way to leave the bitterness.)

    It is said, by someone I think or maybe it’s just in my head, that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. It’s weird to see hate and think of its connection to love, but the reason there is hate is because there is love. Otherwise there would be indifference. Grudges held mean there’s something still there, not that it’s gone. And does some love fade to indifference? I suppose it’s possible, if the love wasn’t much to begin with. But then one would have to ask “Was there ever love there, really? Or was it something else?” Friendships can be built on admiration and good times and common ground and all sorts of other things, but still not fly into the realm of “love.”

    Or maybe I’m wrong about all of it. These are just my thoughts from experience and life.

  • mike

    “That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
    ‘And is thy earth so marred,
    Shattered in shard on shard?
    Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
    Strange, piteous, futile thing!
    Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
    Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
    ‘And human love needs human meriting:
    How hast thou merited—
    Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
    Alack, thou knowest not
    How little worthy of any love thou art!
    Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
    Save Me, save only Me?
    All which I took from thee I did but take,
    Not for thy harms,
    But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.”

    The Hound of Heaven, my favorite poem, which I read while in the dumps in a drug treatment center but which described vividly my life and my wild pursuit of love…