The Real Meaning of Love

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Love. The world defines love as an emotion…a feeling. From fairy tales to Hollywood love stories, we are taught from childhood through adulthood that love is this intense, electric emotion that consumes us and sends us to the stratosphere, robbing of us all sense and thought .

The Bible, however, defines love differently:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.

We have all probably heard these verses multiple times in our life…and more often than not, they are read at weddings. However, it probably wasn’t until I was married myself that I truly understood what those verses meant.  The first time he squeezed the toothpaste from the middle instead of the end? (Sigh) The first time he left the toilet seat up?  (Head shake) The first time he stayed up late after I meticulously cleaned the kitchen and went to sleep,  only for me to wake up in the morning to find random dishes, glasses, frozen food and chips wrappings, crumbs, etc. strewn across the kitchen counter and living room table? (Steam coming out of my ears) During those early years, I found it very difficult to be loving at times. Loving=patience=forgiveness…neither of which I was good at. But thank God, even when I wasn’t acting very loving, my husband continued to love on me.

Love, I’ve come to realize over the years, is not just a feeling…it is an action. Forgive. Sacrifice. Protect. Trust. All actions that God has done for us: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.

As always, Jesus is our example. He loved us so much that he sacrificed his life so we can a chance at eternity in heaven. He loved us so much that even in the midst of intense suffering and pain at our hands, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34.

Wow. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Love.

Batteries Not Included?

By JMathis

Husbands and gift-giving. It really is a hit or miss proposition, isn’t it? Either you have a husband who forgets to give you something entirely, or you have one who really means well, but ends up buying you some utterly useless gifts.

My husband is from the latter category.

I remember one year, my husband bought me the most beautiful cross pendant. It sat in my jewelry box for two years, because he didn’t think about buying a chain to accompany the pendant. Who does that? Did he just want me to stare at it and admire it from afar? I mean, this pendant was hardly the Hope Diamond for display at the Smithsonian.

Now I know how my daughter feels when she unwraps a gift, only to find that the batteries aren’t included.

Another year, he went to a high-end frame shop and spent an outrageous amount of money framing my diplomas as a gift. At one point, this would have been an extremely thoughtful gift, like when I was just a couple years out of law school, still beaming with pride. Instead, this gift comes ten years after graduation, when I could care less about my past achievements, because frankly, I’m too exhausted to care and too busy being smeared in kid poop and finger-paint. How about a night off from kid duty instead?

The classic, though, was on our FIRST wedding anniversary, and he surprised me by taking me to a fancy steakhouse. Sounds pretty good, you say? Well, it turns out this steakhouse is a glorified man-cave adorned with football paraphernalia, and I’m the only woman there that night at this cigar-smoking, scotch guzzling “old boys club.” Pretty romantic, huh? I guess all of the other women in town got the memo, because I surely didn’t. Oh, and did I mention that I don’t even eat steak???

I know I sound like a complete ingrate, and I honestly don’t mean to do so. My husband truly does mean well; my heart is genuinely warmed that he tries to do right by me, year after year.

However, every so often, I have to ask myself, “Does he really even know me?”

And, that’s when I realize that my husband doesn’t really know me in the way that I want him to know me.

Why? Because the way I want him to know me is based on fairy tales, Glamour magazine, soap operas and Harlequin romance novels—the stuff of pure fiction. More importantly, as Bindu said, he’ll never know how to fill all of the achingly-large God-sized holes in my heart.

I need to keep reminding myself, however, that he really does know me in all the ways that God intended for him to know me—in all the ways that really count.

Not as a mind-reader, and not as some all-omniscient gift-giving genie, but rather as my helpmate, friend, lover and companion.

And, that, is greater than any gift that he could ever wrap and give me…batteries included.

The Truth About “Happily Ever Afters”

 Go to fullsize image

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Once Upon a Time…most of the stories I read as a child opened with those famous four words. As a kid, I loved fairy tales. I loved the adventurous stories, like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, but I’ll admit somewhat sheepishly that I especially had a soft spot for the princess storylines…especially the sweet sappy Disney versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Unlike JMathis, the idea of being treated like a princess was very appealing to me. Very, very appealing.

Once I was in high school, my love of fairy tales transformed into the medieval bodice-ripping romance novels of yore, and in college, my love of the princess-themed fairy tale romance further evolved into the “Romeo and Juliet” storylines of Indian/ Bollywood movies that I became obsessed with.  And most recently, while I no longer believe in fairy tales, romance novels, or Bollywood-like romances, I, along with 2 other billion viewers, woke up in the wee hours of the morning (okay, I admit, it was closer to 6am) to watch a modern-day fairy tale. Middleclass commoner Kate, er I mean, Catherine, Middleton meets and marries a real life Prince William Charming of Windsor, complete with the requisite blond hair and crown.

The carriage. The royal guards in uniform. The medieval church. The hats. All that Pomp and Circumstance.

Sigh. For a few moments, I was once again transformed into the wide-eyed eight year old who watched Princess Diana’s wedding in awe, believing that Cinderella stories really did happen.

But years later, I, along with the whole world, would later learn that Diana’s life was no different from ours. In fact, in comparison to most of ours, it was probably emotionally much worse. Despite all that fame, privilege, and royalty, she experienced pain, loneliness, eating disorders, affairs, suicide attempts, divorce, and sadly, an untimely death. Unlike the fairy tales, she got her “once upon a time,” but she never got to fully experience a “happily ever after” here on earth.

As I watched Catherine and William’s wedding, though, I was struck that while I was absolutely smitten by the grandeur of the occasion, I no longer needed to believe or even hope that they would live some type of fairy tale type of existence. And somehow, for the first time, I felt that while we (all 2 billion of us) were struck very much by this “once upon a time” experience, we all collectively seemed more interested that they truly also have a chance to experience a “happily ever after.”

As I think of my own daughter and what “life lessons” I want to pass on to her, I realize whether she’s a tomboy like JMathis or a Disney princess daydreamer like me, I want her to know that her own love story can be as unique as she is. I want her to know that she won’t turn into a spinster maid with warts on her nose when the clock strikes twelve on her 30th birthday (as I feared).  I want her to know that if she does fall for a frog, accept he’s a frog…and if she falls for a snake, accept he’s a snake and move on rather than wasting her time, hoping to change him into her version of Prince Charming (as many of my friends have learned the hard way). Because in the end, he’ll still be a snake and she’ll just end up with a bunch of snake bites. I also want her to know that happily ever afters are not always blissfully happy. There are good days, bad days, and many in between blah days. And it’s okay.

But most of all, I want her to know that unlike the fairy tales or Bollywood movies that end with a wedding, the real story is in the happily ever after.  Unlike those fairy tales, the happily ever after is not the end of the story…on the contrary, it is only the beginning.