Love is a funny thing.

It coasts along, never minding being taken for granted. It's thrown around casually, as in, "I love your coat," and "Bye Mom, luv you," but doesn't mind that indifference. It bestows acceptance, and warmth. It knows the power it holds. What are we if we are not loved? It is what we are.

The first time someone tells us they love us, we are amazed. Someone loves us. Yes, indeed, it is wonderful to be loved.

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We love all our lives. We love our blankies, our tricycles, our Barbies, our saddle shoes. We get older and we love sports and clothes and cars. Then we love Ricky, the cutest boy in the ninth grade. One day he notices us, and we sigh, "Oh, I loooove him."

We fall in love and get married. In sickness and in health, for better or worse. "Yes," you say, "I'm in love, so I got married." You are. In Love. And it is a wonderful place to be.

Then children come along, and the love we feel for our kids tosses all definitions of what we thought love to be aside. Who knew such love in the world existed?

The love we feel for this tiny squealing sentient being takes our breath away. We pick him up, and feel like we hold the moon, the stars and the sun. The possibilities of this human being, the potential, are in our hands. "And what will you do with this gift?" God asks. "The best we can," we answer.

So we do our best. The best we know how. Cross at the light, we say. Don't talk to strangers, we plead. Not so fast, use your seatbelt, say please and thank you, eat your vegetables. We look at them, long and hard, well aware that one day, because of our love, they will fly.

And fly they must. Because when we clap for their successes and cry for their failures, it is with the full intention that one day, despite what we want, they will leave us. And it is good. Because this love for our children? It transcends. Everything.

It is the kind of love we would throw ourselves under a bus for, stand at the edge of a cliff howling for. It never fades, and is never distorted. The love for our children is so pure, so true, that whether in peaceful or troubled times it stays vibrant and throbbing. It is a life force. What we wouldn't do for our children. "Anything," you say to God, "for them."

So we hum happily along, doing homework, going to soccer, and attending church. We pray for guidance and love, and thank God for his good graces and gifts. We make mistakes, the stupidity of which take our breath away. We spend time trying to make it up to our families and God, wondering if we will EVER be worthy of the love that is felt for us.

Then we're tested. Oh, we're tested. God gives us this test, this impossible test, and we have to decide what we're made of. And we know, to our core, that this is what life is. A test. We lie in bed, eyes open, thinking, "I can do this. I can do this."

So we give ourselves up to this test. But it shakes us to our core. We're at that cliff again, howling, with no one in sight. It's the nightmare where we'll falling, but in this one, we can't wake up. We find ourselves walking, and with every step we utter, "Help me, help me, help me."

And somewhere, deep in our reserves, we find untapped strength. Strength we didn't know we had. And we find love. More love that was waiting, just under the surface. Under the pecks on the cheeks, the fights over money, the squabbling over whose turn it is to walk the dog, we find love.

And it hurts. But it makes sense. Because true love is pain. It's pain, and tears and longing mixed with the joy of knowing a secret that not everyone knows. Life is pain, and when we decide to love, and put ourselves in someone else's hands, we run the risk of being hurt.

But hurt is good. It means we're alive. It means our heart has not ceased to throb in syncopation. The world revolves around us, and we revolve around others. And it is good.

No matter how much it hurts, it is good. Of that I have no doubt. Love is good.

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