Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Love is messy; Love is kind


I heard the new Justin Timberlake song on the radio the other day and it got me thinking about love.

I would not have even known it was the former boy-bander had the announcer not mentioned it. Timberlake really isn’t my type, which I am sure is a huge relief to his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

Don’t worry, Jess, I’m not interested in Mickey Mousing around with the former Mouseketeer.

It’s just that his song got me thinking.

Maybe it’s because I seldom listen to music in the car anymore since I enjoy the rare sound of silence so much more. Or, maybe it was the combination of the beautiful spring day and the right amount of coffee, but I was feeling philosophical about the pop song.

Timberlake was singing about love, and something about making some girl’s dream come true by loving her.

If it was Jess, he didn’t say so.

I think it went something like this: love, give it a chance, yadda, yadda, (optional gag,) and if you do he will make your dreams come true. This was set to a rhythmic beat that seemed too fast to slow dance to and too slow to fast dance to.

Maybe it’s folding towels kind of music.

Is that a genre?

Anyway, I guess it was the part about the dreams coming true that I was stuck on.

When I think of dreams, I think of sleep; glorious sleep.

But maybe that’s totally lame. (It probably is.)

So, I tried to be open-minded and think about what the heck Timberlake was crooning about.

Dreams and love… Hmm. Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I have been married for 16 years. We met when we were 14. (No, not in a commune – but in high school, which admittedly is in some ways similar.) Anyway, we didn’t date until after college so if you go by our dating years, it will be 20 years this summer that we have been together.

But those are just statistics, and numbers don’t mean anything when you are talking about love.

Still, whether it’s been 16 years or 20, I have never thought of my husband as my dream.

I don’t think this would devastate him either (but I will certainly ask before I post this).

He is my dearest friend. The person I count on more than anyone else. Someone I have been really mean to and really nice to (mostly nice); a person who has seen me at my best and at my worst (mostly somewhere in between the two); and I could go on. But this is not a Hallmark card and the intimacies of my marriage are just that.

Ultimately, he is a lot of amazing things and a partner in the truest since of the word, but he is not my dream.


Because I think that is a totally ridiculous sentiment! Seriously — it’s just gross.

I don’t mean to pick on Timberlake and because I am certain he quit reading this in paragraph two when I said he wasn’t my type, I don’t feel bad saying it’s ridiculous.

I know it’s a ballad and it’s entertainment.

But I think it’s a little bit of a problem when we envision romantic love as the end all, be all – the dream.

Thinking of love only as first kisses, long gazes and electric touches, it’s no wonder so many people become disenchanted with their spouses.

All of that is flirtatious and often fleeting.

I would also find it a little annoying if my husband gazed at me anyway. Either speak to me or go unload the dishwasher. Don’t just sit there and stare! Who does that?

It’s weird.

And it’s not that I am not a romantic that I say all of this.

Long stares aside, I love those moments when your breath catches in your throat.

But it’s not sustainable. You would quite literally start to choke or gasp. Neither of which is particularly attractive.

Those moments are fun and they’re giddy. They sell books, movies and even, songs.

But, I think when we get too caught up in them we set unrealistic expectations in our relationships.

It sets everyone up to fail because it ignores a fundamental truth about love.

Love is messy.

I know they didn’t say that in Corinthians 13:4-13 which begins with “Love is patient, love is kind…” But maybe what’s inferred is that love is messy, so be patient; love is messy, so be kind…

Real love isn’t just romance. It is listening when you don’t feel like hearing. Love is accepting when you want change. Love is trusting. It is surrender. It is scary.

Add a mortgage and a couple of kids and it gets even scarier.

How come no one sings about that?

No, it’s not sexy but somehow, it’s kind of beautiful.

No one dreams about a sink full of dishes or a sinking feeling when you have different opinions or different approaches. No one dreams about taking care of someone when they are sick or struggling with feelings of indifference or apathy. No one dreams about the fights or the vulnerabilities they expose.

Love is beautiful because it’s so messy and it endures all the humanness, all the brokenness.

It’s beautiful because being willing to surrender takes a lot more courage sometimes than a fight.

It’s loving someone through moments, days or periods of time that for whatever reason feel like a nightmare.

When Jesus died on the cross for us, it was no dream.

It was a brutal reality. Yet, it was love.

It was the epitome and essence of love. It was sacrificial and unconditional.

Often our relationships with those we love require sacrifice.  That’s the messy part, but arguably it’s the part that matters most.   Knowing someone has seen the worst of you and still wants only the best for you, is pretty amazing.

I guess no one knows this better than Jesus.  He sees us at worst, at our weakest and still, he remains.

Jesus deserved better than He got on the cross. I am not worthy of His love through anything I have done but through everything that He has done.

I can’t live up to His example or repay His sacrifice.

Still, I am humbled by that reality. And even though I may have to pick up my own cross seven times seventy times to show the people in my life genuine love. I would do it.

It’s far from a dream, but somehow it’s music to my ears – the kind I actually feel like I can dance to.


Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

30 thoughts on “Love is messy; Love is kind

  1. Wow! Your hiatus from blogging was worth the wait, Lara! Yes, life — and love — is messy, and thank Him that His Son dove right in to our mess of humanity. P.S. I stopped listening to popular music many, many years ago…I’m exclusively a K-LOVE kind of gal. Right now what’s running through my mind are the lyrics from Crowder’s “I Am” — There’s no space that His love can’t reach; There’s no place where we can’t’ find peace; There’s no end to amazing grace…


  2. I think this is my favorite blog post of yours. Ever. Even if I can’t dance to it. You area dancin queen. 😉


    • Sarah – I’m sure you already know every word to this song already! And if I could dance to Timberlake’s song, it is only because I disregard any kind of rhythm or beat and flail around completely clueless that I am out of sync. Get it “out of sync?” It’s kind of funny! (Unless you don’t get it.)


  3. Always love to read your blog and look forward to the next one. So true what you wrote “Knowing someone has seen the worst of you and still wants only the best for you, is pretty amazing” AMEN! Those are the people I want in my life.
    Thank you Lara


    • Thank you, Diana. I appreciate that. Yes, it is amazing when we realize that people who love us accept us unconditionally. I also think being aware of what a gift that is makes us more likely and willing to share it with others. It is easy to take the people we love the most for granted, but when I think these people’s sacrifices and acts of love – I just want to cherish them all the more. So parallels are relationship with God! Really, He was so brilliant in the examples He set.


  4. This is a great reminder for all of us that emotional love takes WORK. That sometimes feels like a secret – since we are inundated with fantasy pictures of ‘happily ever after’ as we grow up – but the truth is that love takes effort, forgiveness, kindness… and it’s messy! Thank you for saying it so beautifully!


    • Thank you, Jeannette. And trust me, I am as guilty as anyone for wanting the fairytale. While no one really tells you how much work a relationship can be, I have found that the payoff is much bigger than the pouffiest princess dress. It’s kind of like watching old people hold hands, there is a deeper more genuine kind of beauty there that tells of an enduring and timeless kind of love. That is much more priceless than even the best princess’s crown. (Although I do think I would look quite fabulous in a crown!)


  5. Lara – What a great view on love and how it really is! The romance is great but reality sets in and then can you make things work? A lot of ppl don’t realize that love/marriage is work – every day!!! But like you said – there is no place I would rather be than with my husband and my children! Cheers!


    • Cheers, Kelly! I am glad we can all celebrate the reality that relationships are hard work, but ever worth it. Now, I just have to make sure I remember my shiny attitude the next time I get mad at my husband! That’s what I love about this site though is it (and the people who read and share their insights/experiences) helps me to center myself and understand my faith in the context of life. Your right, that children are included in the messy as well and nothing could be more worth the mess of love than they are! Feeling blessed 🙂


  6. Lara, I love the use of Corinthians with love is messy so…… I might have to borrow that. All of it is so true. I hope lots of people read this and let it sink in. I will be thinking about it all day.
    Thank you


    • Wendy – borrow away! Somehow it is a huge relief to just own the messiness than it is to worry about keeping things tidy and in-check. Then we can relax and embrace the blessing that we have someone in our lives to make a big, fat mess with!


  7. Lara, I loved this one and it is so true. thanks for discussing real love.


  8. Goose bumps!! Thank you for sharing your most beautiful thoughts.


  9. fist I know this song is Not a Christian Song But the Truth is there LOVE HURTS! Just ask Jesus Messiah, Father God, any married couple and any Parent or Child All have been Hurt by someone they LOVE.


    • Brian, No I don’t think Timberlake is in the Christian genre, but I do think Love Hurts is a Def Leopard song?! (When you put Love Hurts in all caps my mind just went there 🙂

      You make some unarguable comparisons Jesus, God, parents and even children have the capacity to love sacrificially and unconditionally. Just this weekend I told one of my boys that what I love most about being a christian is that I can be forgiven and that I can start over and that carries into my relationships with others as well. Only through God’s love do I have that gift.


  10. Missed hearing from you! But this was worth the wait! You hit this one over the wall! Good word “messy”. We know “in love” is insanity. We could never stay that way! It’s like heroin. The first time it’s exhilarating! It’s never the same after that but the addict keeps striving for it. “Messy”,” messy” Micky Rooney married 10 times. I guess he was looking for “in love” in all the wrong places. But what do I know? – maybe it was in all the right places. He lived into his 90’s. All I know is that love in a marriage is not easy at all! Life is too complicated & fast! After the honey-moon & reality sets in, the tire hits the rubber – sometimes with a thud! Life is not easy living in community – religious or family! Lots of “gives” & “takes.” And mostly “gives” if it’s going to last! Willing to accept your spouse as she is, not wanting to change her & giving her space demands courage, strength long-suffering. Need help from on high to pull it off! Participated in a Seder Dinner this evening. Reminder how God loves His people – unconditonally! Am I willing to do that for our love & marriage to work? Let’s be honest. It’s not easy & like you say very, very “messy”


    • Wow! Bill, love is “insanity, heroin, exhilarating.” Maybe that makes messy even more attractive! I think people can get distracted by that high that is there early in relationships and then I think the media does so much to present love with the perfection of perfectly timed kisses, extravagant gifts and women without cellulite! Talk about insane! You are right that giving in love often requires courage, strength and suffering. Indeed – “need help from on high to pull it off.” Perhaps that is why marriage is a sacrament. The priest at my wedding was so amazing he just kept telling us how important it is to pray together. He didn’t say things would be easy or great or perfect. But he told us what to do when things got messy. So far, it’s never failed me.


  11. Hi Lara! Miss ya! I have to share this story. I meet such wonderful , interesting people in my volunteer work. I met one elderly gentleman at Memorial. He described growing up in a rural town in Va. Only Presbyterian churches in town – big ones! He left after being hired by Quaker Oats as a salesman. He went all over the US. He ended up in Miami in the 1940’s. Fell in love with an Irish colleen. She told him it had to be a Catholic wedding. He knew also that he’d have to sign agreements about raising the kids catholic, etc. Well ,they met with the Irish Monsignor & he walked them over to the church. They were told to pick up the hymnal & choose their favorite hymn & sing it together. They did. And afterwards the monsignor said “keep singing in harmony!” No papers to sign, nothing more. Their marriage lasted 50+ yrs! Very happy one.


    • That’s awesome, Bill! Unfortunately, it would never work in my marriage because I can’t sing! Still, somehow we remain harmonious! I love a story with a happy ending 🙂


      • Read something yesterday bout being “in love.” The author said it was all about sex. Naturally this wears off! Love means going to a movie because she wants it & you’d prefer to stay home & watch a ball-game. Going to church because she wants to & you’d like to stay home – yes to watch a ball game! You know what I’m saying. I thought it was interesting. And the author is a psychologist!


      • Just read this: “Love is not a mere feeling. It is a decision about how we will behave and treat each other.” Joyce Meyer. Inmates love her books!


      • Yes, I think love is a decision. And while it’s a good decision, it’s not always an easy one. Somehow it makes choosing the harder path, by far more rewarding.


      • Oh my! How right you are! Was it easy to leave the priesthood where all my cares would have been taken care of for the rest of my life? And did all of the “worst” bail out? Don’t think so.. I believe God was guiding some of us to new ventures. I have no ill feelings toward those who remained. We need them . God bless them.. But there was a reason & I can surmise the reason in all my endeavors. I only say “dear God, keep revealing! I hear your voice!”
        You are definitely right,. I chose definitely the harder path , but it is truly the far more rewarding/. Love hearing from you!


      • Need your handle to get into the blog. Thx. Hope you’re well et al. Bill


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