Sitting on my lap, one lazy afternoon, Gwyneth said, “I love you mommy”.
I wondered what was going on in her little two-year-old mind.
“What do you think it means to love someone?” I asked.
“It means to stay…and snuggle.”
I have never forgotten her definition of love. Sometimes we make love so complicated. We confuse it with things like lust and infatuation. The word itself poses a problem: we use it to express our excitement about a new lip gloss but we also use it to describe our undying devotion to our mates. It does seem like quite the discrepancy.
Maybe we do throw the word around too much. Maybe we are careless with our declarations of love. Maybe we don’t mean it when we say it. Maybe we don’t say it at all.
On this particular day, I was reminded that in the purest sense, love involves staying power. Gwyneth knew as a two-year-old that security is the foundation of love. It is when people feel safe that they can begin to experience true love. When we doubt the constancy of our relationships we find ourselves guarded and hesitant, unable to fully allow access to our deepest selves. When we are confident in someone’s loyalty, we can freely give and receive love.
There is a pattern in our culture that says that love is disposable. You don’t have to look too far to see a broken marriage or an abandoned child. This throwaway mindset perpetuates the lie that we should follow our feelings and dismiss those we “loved” on a whim.
I don’t think this is working. There is so much brokenness because of faithlessness and distrust. People don’t know how to love through commitment and, as a result, they keep looking for the next relationship to feed an emotional high. Unfortunately, their misguided sensibilities and their lack of staying power leave many wounded hearts, including their own.
I think Gwyneth felt secure in my love for her at that moment. As her mother, I always want her to be convinced of my love. No matter what, I’m staying. The snuggles are just a perk.
(originally posted in 2009)