1:00 AM. A quiet whimper from the vicinity of the bathroom catches my attention. I groggily get up and stumble through my pitch-black bedroom. I get to the bathroom and turn on the light.
My little girl looks up at me and bursts into tears. She had a poopy accident there in the dark and was trying to clean it up all by herself. Poop is everywhere. On her clothes, on her hands, on the floor.
I gasp and squat down to start cleaning up. Then it happens.
A little poopy hand right in the middle of my forehead.
"Don't touch ANYTHING!" I whisper fiercely, trying not to wake up my toddler who's asleep in the room ten feet away. My wife comes up behind me and mutters, "Oh, my!" before tossing me some wipes and going back to the bedroom to get some new pajamas.
I wash her hands and then help her clean up and change into new clothes. I pick up the chunks off the floor and wipe away the streaks. Only then do I stand up and wash my face. Twice.
I pick her up, rock her back to sleep, and then go back to bed.
That fizzy soda kind of love.
So this is love. It's not the kind of love that gets a lot of play in movies these days (not that I watch a lot of movies that aren't cartoons right now). No, the Hollywood version of love is more sanitary. Effervescent.
Or totally unrelated. Hollywood-style love is founded on the joy and excitement that comes from a mutual attraction shared by two impossibly attractive people. I don't know that there's any connection between that kind of love and the middle of the night poop on your head kind of love at all.
The Hollywood kind of love is all about how another person makes me feel. That flutter of excitement that I get when I see her. The joy I experience in her presence. The longing that grabs hold of me when she's somewhere else.
But those feelings aren't particularly steadfast. I have occasionally felt irritated with my wife. Impatient. Befuddled and confused. That's why an idea of love based on feelings is so fragile. The testimony of countless temporary Hollywood romances makes it clear. Happily until further notice.
Love as relentless as a poopy head.
But there's another kind of love. It's a love not founded on how I feel, but in how I treat my beloved, completely independent of my feelings. I wasn't feeling a whole lot of warm fuzzies at the moment that the poopy hand hit my forehead. But at the same time, my concern for my daughter, my desire to take care of her, and the simple actions of cleaning up a mess I didn't make, overrode all self-concern.
Sure, I had a poopy head, but at the same time, I had someone who needed me to care for them. This kind of love has a sort of forgetfulness of self. It's not about me. It's not about my feelings. It's about the other person and how my actions aim for their benefit.
Love like this is not fragile. It's robust and unrelenting. It doesn't matter if I feel good at all, only that I choose to do good. This kind of love can weather the fickleness of the seasons of life, the joys and sorrows, the boredom and irritation. It the kind of love that sticks around when all the parties involved get old and fat and decrepit. It's even there when I'm a poopy head.