From childhood, through adolescence to adulthood, I have strived to give ‘love’ a meaning from my side of the prism, believing that when I do, it will satisfy my desire to know what it truly means. Although this ubiquitous word is popular on everyone’s lips and has been the theme of stories and religious books, I believe it encapsulates things that may be beyond the understanding of the ordinary man like me. The ways of men are different from the ways of God. So, how does man, in essence, understand God, the author of love and Love itself? In His own way however, God vested the totality of His commandments on the word ‘love’. Thus, He instructed humans to “love their neighbours as themselves.” Everything He did from creating the world to granting humans free will was all begotten in love.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes love as a “deep or intense affection.” This may loosely translate to deep or intense affection for a person or thing. Going by this view, it may be rational to say that, when one loves a person or a thing, he would never want to hurt or allow any harm come the way of such person or thing, akin to the saying “the bird we love, we cage”. Growing up, I kept pigeons in cages and treated them nicely because I loved them. At one point in time, I had two pigeons and one of them died. That night, I had a dream, in which the second pigeon approached me to ask if I really loved him and I said yes. The pigeon then replied, “Daniel, I have been in this cage for a long time and if you love me, you must let me have my freedom, for that is what love does. Love gives freedom to others to decide for themselves, where and how to live”. I woke up from that dream with a clearer understanding of love and had to let the pigeon go.
Two days later, my late cousin, was fighting a herder about the same age as his, who had stopped to pray under the mango tree in grandma’s compound. When my cousin saw grandmama, he felt a confidence boost, gave his challenger a hard kick and the herder fell. To my surprise, grandma declared my cousin guilty after listening to both sides of their account. She insisted that he apologize and entreat the forgiveness of the stranger. I was shocked. “How could my grandma take sides with a stranger?”, I thought. She later explained, while we sold akara that evening, that in God’s presence, there is no stranger and He loves us equally.
Within the same week, we experienced another encounter. My friends and I were playing soccer on a Saturday, when our neighbour, Mr. Martins, who had been having trouble starting his pickup van beckoned on us to help push his car to a start. We pushed the car with all the energy we could muster until it started. My soccer buddy, Sunday, thought Mr. Martins would thank us. Rather than stop, thank us and possibly show his appreciation in cash or kind, Mr.Martins zoomed off. We watched in amazement as the car galloped away, leaving behind a stream of smoke as it disappeared down the slope. We became sad because he had just interrupted our game and left without giving us any gift. Right at that moment, a young man who had watched the entire event unfold, walked over and explained that it was better to do things for love, without expectation of rewards.
Why is this piece centered on the word ‘love’? Perhaps, it’s because I took some time to earnestly delve into understanding the true meaning of ‘love’. From these experiences and with some inspiration from 1 Corinthians 13, I realized that:
Love respects the freedom of others, it holds no one captive
Love is a breath of fresh air, it does not encroach on people’s private space
Love is like a welcome embrace, it neither discriminates nor condemns or derogates other people’s religion or culture
Love builds up, it does not destroy
Love freely grants favors without expectations of rewards
Love protects but it is not jealous
Love always sees the truth, it is not blind
Love is doing one’s best in everything, it does not malinger
Love is beyond words, words alone cannot describe it
Love is accommodating and it is best practiced if we always open ourselves up in humility as channels of God.
Comrade Omaga Elachi Daniel writes from Keffi, Nasarawa State.