Abounding in Love
In my experience, any business with the Tooth Fairy has always been transactional. You give her a tooth; she gives you money in return. But that all changed when Timmy lost his first tooth.
As we tucked him in for the night, he asked if we could write a note to the Tooth Fairy requesting that she let him keep his tooth. Then he added, “but I still want the money.”
He caught me a bit off guard and I said, “I’m not sure what her policy is on that. Typically, you give her the tooth and then she leaves you a little money.”
“What does she do with all those teeth?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure and honestly, it did sound a bit creepy—a Tooth Fairy who stockpiled mountains of baby teeth, keeping a record of every human being’s DNA. I ignored the question and said, “Sure, I’ll write a note and we’ll see what happens.”
When Paul prays for the Philippian church he says: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more…” (Philippians 1:9a)
How does Paul desire their love to grow? He’s not talking about “affection” here. He’s not referring to a feeling or an emotion. The love he’s talking about is a working love. It involves actively seeking the benefit of another.
When we were kids my mom had a refrigerator that was covered in magnets. One of the magnets was in the shape of a heart with the words: “Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love ‘til you give it away.”
As a child, I didn’t know the quote was a line from Oscar Hammerstein, The Sound of Music. The first part of the verse says: “A bell’s not a bell ‘til you ring it; a song’s not a song ‘til you sing it.”
Love involves doing. But here’s the catch. We’re not called to love only the people we agree with; and we’re not called to love only someone who will give us something in return.
Love is seeking the benefit of a family member even when you’re in an argument. Love is seeking the benefit of a co-worker even when you disagree. Love is seeking the benefit of another church leader, even when your thoughts about how to do ministry in your particular context are at odds.
This kind of love is not based on a feeling. In fact, you might feel something quite opposite of the warm-fuzzies!
This active love that we are called to deliver to others is the kind of love that God gives to us. He loves us not because of how great we are or because of what we can give to his kingdom. He is committed to loving us even when we are unworthy. He demonstrated that love on the cross.
As a child grows, his or her body experiences a multitude of changes, many of which are confusing and even a bit frightening. The loss of a tooth is one of the first major changes that a child’s body undergoes. The Tooth Fairy plays a role in lessening the trauma of that loss by leaving a wee gift.
I can assure you that the Batten Household Tooth Fairy still left a gift, even when she was given nothing in return. Sometimes our love expenditures are given like small tokens under the pillow when nobody is looking. Other times, the love we give is costly. Others witness our expression of love and think we’re fools for giving the way we do. But God alone is our audience. He wants us to love others the way He has loved us. Sacrificially. Loving those who do not deserve it.
In someone else’s confusion or fear or loss, love works to benefit that person, even when nothing is given in return. By actively loving someone else, even when it’s difficult, you can lessen the trauma or stress or confusion or fear that they’re facing.
I pray that your love will abound more and more today and always.