(Okay, maybe not exactly the “naked” as in this old SNL skit, but I suppose it’s revealing in a different sense.)
I would like to think that I’m fortunate to be a product of the 80’s and 90’s. As a child, I would sit my parents’ car during our various outings as they listened to all the sappy love songs that would play on our local adult contemporary station, KOIT. I grew fond of a few artists back then such as Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Peabo Bryson, Luther Vandross, and Michael Jackson just to name a few. Later, I got hooked on R&B and listened to artists like Boyz II Men, Blackstreet, Shai, Silk, Brian McKnight, and several others.
I remember singing along with and feeling the emotion of songs like “Please Don’t Go” by Boyz II Men and “Before I Let You Go” by Blackstreet.
I remember wanting to “be around” and “never let you down” like in “Forever Love” by Color Me Badd.
I remember “Comforter” by Shai, and longing to be able to play that role for someone.
I initially thought that this aspect of my upbringing was the very factor that shaped me to have the personality I have today. In actuality, I was already a bit of a sensitive crybaby back when I was a child. Sometime around early elementary school, I remember my parents buying my brother some Transformer Velcro shoes. I wanted a pair, but I was still quiet and reserved so I didn’t tell them of that desire. I ended up breaking down in tears as we were leaving the shoe department and my parents had to probe and bombard me with questions before they could figure out what I wanted. (I did happily leave with those Slag shoes in the end.)
I’m a person who is easily brought to tears. I remember the sadness I felt the moment Optimus Prime died in the Transformers movie. I probably shed some tears when Serpentor put Duke into a coma in the GI Joe movie. I’m sure I cried when Ariel expressed she wanted to be a part of your world in The Little Mermaid. Any show or movie that had a scene with the intent of bringing out tears in their audience probably succeeded with me.
I suppose this is why I’m drawn to the R&B genre so much.
I remember as a teen, I would often dream of finding my soul mate and sharing that true and unblemished unconditional love you often hear about in books, poems, songs, and movies. I would imagine rescuing someone out of the darkness of their previous bad relationship(s) and showing them the light of true love. I would envision sharing those strolls in the park or walks on the beach, giving bouquets of flowers, and telling that person how much I loved them. I was confident and arrogantly believed that I was this sensitive man and the love I had to offer was real love. Forever love. That my love wouldn’t fail.
How wrong was I?
In looking back on all my past relationships, I’ve come to realize just how far from reality the view I had on myself was. I learned just much of this “real” love I truly lack. This love that I thought I had, that I thought I could give and share with my significant other, was actually nowhere to be found. Instead, only the flaws, failures, and shortcomings of humanity would be revealed. Relationships would come to an end, leaving me to ponder where things went wrong. Circumstances and situations varied with each one, but maybe I should have been pointing the finger at myself instead.
I suppose I shouldn’t take all the blame for those relationships ending, but being divorced was the biggest slap in the face with regards to the vision I had of myself. I was ultimately humbled with regards to love. As much as I strive towards it, even to this day, I probably would never come close to being someone’s “hero,” “dream come true,” or “knight in shining armor.” The love of this world can only go so far.
The word “love” in English is something that’s hard to define. Merriam-Webster has 9 definitions for it and yet I still feel it’s inadequate in terms of describing and capturing what it is and what it represents. The Greek have a fairly interesting take on it in that they actually use different words to represent different kinds of love. I sometimes think that we should adopt something like that in English, as my love for coffee, drawing, or video games isn’t the same as the love for my family, “her” smile, or for my (would-be) significant other.
We were created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). In that, we actually display some aspects of His attributes. However, our manifestation of these attributes are deficient due to our sin and corruption. There’s no doubt that love exists in this world, but I feel that the majority of the love exhibited is love based on conditions. Like I love you because you’re family, or because of your beauty, or because I want something in reciprocation.
The more I learn about God, the closer I come to learn about this “real” love. Agape. The very love that He demonstrated in the life and ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is love, so to know more of Him is to know more about love. We love and are capable of love only because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-8, 19). Loving the Way Jesus Loves has been a great resource in learning more about this love in studying the famous “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13). Reading Ryken’s insights and delving into the Word has helped me to see just how much more I need to work on in loving people. Not just with my family or those close to me, but also to complete strangers and “enemies.”
It makes me think of that cheesy Foreigner song (yeah, I say it’s cheesy, but I liked it). “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.” In order to know love, we simply need to know “Love.” That is, we need to know Christ.
I could only pray that He would continue to work on me and help me to be a better light in this world. To be able to shine forth love, even to those “undeserving” of it. That I would be able to demonstrate God’s love in my life. After all, we don’t deserve His love. We deserve wrath and judgment. Instead, He gives us love. He gave us Christ.