“What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
Tina Turner’s distinctive vocals bellowed from Radio 2 (which is not just for old people).
It was to be the lyric of the day. You know, the one that sticks in your head on loop, dislocated from all other lines in the song; slowly driving you crazy as it refuses to be replaced by the 99 other songs you’ve played since, and threatening to embarrass when it escapes your lips while you concentrate on which frozen peas to buy in the supermarket.
It had been a rough few days.
As a young widow, I’m familiar with rough days. But this was different.
I’d like to say these were the result of a new wave of grief, the sting of an anniversary or special occasion, the confrontation of some new difficult situation. But they weren’t.
This was ugly.
I know ugly. I have stared ugly in the face repeatedly (and I’m not talking about the bathroom mirror each morning).
Disappointment, loss, grief, isolation. These painful things are far from beautiful.
But the ugliest thing I have encountered on my journey? Self-pity.
Ugliness brought on, not unavoidably by circumstance, but invited by you to begin its rotting process on your mind and spirit.
These few days had ushered in pity parties for the car park space I hadn’t found, the laundry load that exceeded the number of pegs in my possession, the empty freezer where the peas on offer had sold out. The whole universe conspired against me as the low-fuel warning light flashed when I was already late for work.
I had consent to lament. Didn’t I?
While I was frantically raiding the pantry for stray pegs on half-eaten food packets (incidentally ‘half-eaten’ rarely happens here), the lyric of the day surfaced.
“What’s love got to do with it?”
Perhaps self-pity is so unattractive because it is so far removed from what Christ calls us to be. Selfless.
It takes its hold when our focus is ourselves – our rights, our comfort, our way.
What about others’ rights? Sharing comfort? God’s way?
Paul warns us of those that grumbled in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). Like them, we can appear to do all the right things while our grumbling warns of the self-centredness eating us from within.
If we don’t have love, we have nothing.
Our social media-riddled world allows us to broadcast our woes for immediate sympathy, to display our best side to misguided adoration, to become the centre of our own cyber universe. But we’re called to more.
Rather than seek attention, we should be paying it.
We’re called to take our eyes off the temporary and to fix them on the
Eternal (2 Corinthians 16:18); to look beyond our inconveniences, remembering Jesus left heaven to die for us (talk about inconvenience). To take our eyes off ourselves, to love God, to love others, and in the process see beyond self-centred frustrations and reflect His beauty; to know that the things which remain – faith, hope and love – are the things that will sustain us when it really gets difficult.
Frozen peas are temporary, but His love is eternal.