Real love is deep and broad and wide. Love has layers. Love is a mosaic. Love calls for many kinds of words and deeds. Love is a multiplicity.
The love of a parent for a child requires an expansive array of supportive and guiding words and deeds. Name the top 20 things a child needs from a loving parent. It’s hard to narrow it down to such a short list. As a parent you don’t feel up to it, much of the time, but that doesn’t matter. You’re the parent, you have to figure it out, do your best. Love requires all sorts of things, it requires you to be all sorts of things.
The love of a spouse is an ever-expanding, lifelong commitment to the work and rhythms of devotion. Love is the core, and it manifests in more ways than there are days in the couple’s life together. Love is crazy like that. The many dimensions of amorous covenantal partnership are understood more deeply over the course of years, as a couple reflects on all the ways they’ve needed one another across the seasons of the life they’ve forged together.
Love is many things, many ways, many words, many moments of choosing who and how we will be together.
Love for our nation must be understood in the same way. It is many things! It must not be treated as a simple, one-dimensional commitment. It is not captured by the singing of an anthem or the waving of a flag, anymore than chocolate given on Valentine’s Day indicates the true state of the marital bond. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate can be a meaningful gesture, and so is the Pledge of Allegiance, but love is much more than that.
Even the willingness to die for the nation doesn’t provide a complete picture of our love for the nation. I would die for my children. That doesn’t make me a good father. I would die for my wife. That doesn’t make me a good husband. My beloved family needs many things from me, and I owe them a lifelong commitment to the full range of my love as a father and husband.
The willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is a test every honorable person should hope to be able to pass, but what we need most in our families, communities and nation is not only people who will die for the greater good, but people who will live for it.
The preponderance of gun violence across our land is an ongoing national crisis, and the standing response of our leaders is that nothing can be done about it. This is an unloving, un-American attitude. Our national character was supposed to have been forged by the sense of what was possible, not what was impossible. Our nation could be thought of as a nation of problem-solvers, depending on how you want to look at different parts of our history. Certainly patriots have looked at vast challenges, from space flight to civil rights legislation to curing cancer, and said, “Ok, this is huge. Let’s get to work and figure this out.” We have not solved every problem related to our central concerns as a nation, but we have chosen to believe that problems can be solved.
This investment in solving problems and improving lives is not just a matter of grit. It’s a matter of love.
Because love asks what is needed, whether it’s a word, or a deed, or a protective embrace, or a new kind of learning, or a crucial restitution, or whatever it is, and love says, “Ok, let’s do this.”
Every parent says, “I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I don’t know how to meet the challenges that come with being a parent.” But parents keep rising to the challenges and figuring stuff out, because they love their children.
If we love our nation we must have the same attitude about all of the problems that we face, especially the problem of people murdering each other with guns. We don’t know for certain which actions will solve which parts of the problem. But we cannot accept the problem. We cannot be numb to evil, we cannot just look away, we can’t acquiesce to episodic mass carnage, because we love our nation.
I mean, we do love our nation, right?