This past Sunday, I tried to describe how our relationships with the people closest to us–our families, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow church-members–are crucially important; because, on the one hand, our love for them matters in itself. Our compassion for their struggles, our celebration of their achievements, our nurture of their growth, our support of their dreams, and our helpfulness in their day-to-day lives are part of our joyful responsibility as Christ-followers. On the other hand, our love for them also matters because it prepares and trains us to love well people who are more distant from us.

I repeated the commonplace wisdom that love is in the details. I am convinced that that wisdom is deeper and more profoundly true than we sometimes realize. Love in the small things, the daily and ordinary things, is the main way love gets expressed. Grand and sweeping gestures, large and heroic actions, are sometimes called for, but not often. It’s ordinary life where love gets lived.

I quoted from Tommy Hays’ fine novel The Pleasure Was Mine. The story is of an older man who has had to place his wife, Irene, in a nursing home because of her growing struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Here, in part, is what the older man thought:

That was the hardest part about this whole business—that I mattered less and less to Irene. Sometimes I felt I was just another aide to her, helping her dress, helping her into bed at night. I wasn’t alone in this. I had seen the puzzled expressions on the faces of many of the wives and husbands who came each day to care for their spouses at Rolling Hills. Like me, they had learned the hard way that being loved was all about being singled out, thought about, remembered. And, like me, they had learned how painful it was not to be remembered. Maybe the devil was in the details, but so was the love. And the less Irene knew me, the less I knew myself (p. 98)