Love…it’s complicated

The word “love” is confusing. I think Emma’s face in this cover photo explains it well. In certain situations it holds so much meaning that these 4 letters can change a relationship forever. In other situations love is used as a casual nickname or compliment. In Rome I witnessed different types of love unfold in unexpected situations. 

Romantic Love 

We talked a lot about relationships on CR. You reach a weird level of understanding about someone by knowing what they desire in a companion. These conversations were insightful and very very entertaining. On our last night in Rome we all visited the Trevi fountain. As we were all chatting, Brent was asked to take a photo of a young couple. As he was taking the photo, the man got down on one knee and PROPOSED!!! I had never seen people geek out more about love than in that moment. And by people I mean the CR boys ~freaking~ out. So tender. I will definitely not forget that moment because it was the perfect example of romantic love that we constantly see portrayed in movies, but in a real and authentic setting.

Love as a Term of Endearment 

It is very common for people to use the word “love” in a casual setting. “I love this food” or “I love you guys” are phrases I said or heard on CR. I may still love the food, but in a very different way than the man at the Trevi fountain loves his new fiancé. These types of love are so dramatically different, but the limitations of language lead us to using the same word to describe both situations. There are times where I feel hesitant to say “I love you” back to those who constantly use these words in settings that don’t carry much meaning. Even though I might still love the person, I don’t want to overuse “I love you” to the point where the meaning is lost. Instead of saying it, I show my love for them in other more personal ways. Hearing these words from someone who doesn’t use them lightly is much more impactful because you know they truly mean it. It is important to share your love with others, but love can be expressed in more ways than saying “I love you.”

Love in Friendship

This is a genuine type of love that results from shared experiences, respect, and appreciation. This type explains why I love…

  • Bea for her passion to explore and understand different places and people
  • Brent for being my biggest surprise and the person who is not just intelligent, but truly caring
  • Cooper for her sweet soul and genuine connection with others 
  • Connor’s spirit of adventure and willingness to be open
  • Chloe’s incredible ability to connect and relate with others. She can also laugh about horses for hours iykyk!
  • Emma for being way more than just a funny gal! She is intelligent, hard-working, and personable 
  • Gabby for being someone who is always there for you with open arms and served as my rock from day 1 in Berlin
  • Griffin’s multifaceted passions and ability to make everyone feel like someone 
  • Harris for his determination and being 110% his goofy self 
  • Kynnedi’s endless strength, contagious laugh, and commitment to being a great friend
  • Kevin for his heart of GOLD, life ambitions, and ~dad~ humor 
  • Lauren for being the person that has changed my life in more ways than she will ever know
  • Madelyn for seeing the best in others and living life in the moment 
  • Peter for being so well grounded and intentional with others
  • Pitcock’s constant sacrifice and selfless commitment to the growth of others. He is also really good at smelling perfume!
  • Sarah’s vulnerability and ability to make every situation memorable
  • Taylor for her smile, resilience, and positivity

I may use the same word “love” for all of these people, but the reason that I love them is completely different. They are all completely unique and deserving of love. 

Agape Love

This is love of the most sacrificial and selfless kind. Rome was definitely not lacking sights of agape love. Our first night in Rome we visited a very special part of the city called the Spanish Steps. We all sat down and immediately broke apart into different conversations. Some people were having deep and emotional moments, but I was with a group of girls just laughing and soaking up the moment. It was cool to see how the people of Rome and tourists from all over the world gathered on these steps at all hours of the day to just experience life. People were chatting and groups of children were sliding down the steps with smiles smeared across their faces. The people watching was absolutely incredible.

I saw a man sit down behind our group with his guitar and for some reason I felt drawn to sit closer. I stood up and sat a few feet away from him so I could hear him play. He strummed his guitar and sang to the melody of Stand By Me and Country Roads. Everyone nearby stopped their conversations to listen to the heartfelt notes from this man. We clapped after each song and the sweet little man smiled, surprised that others were listening so intently. After he finished singing, Madelyn went up to offer him a tip. He said that he didn’t want the money. He just came there to sing some songs for his wife. They stood in the same spots years ago and he sang those exact songs. He opened up to our group, sharing that his wife had passed away 8 months ago due to cancer. He was on a pilgrimage and arrived from Florence that day with his guitar that he always wears. He made a promise that he would go on this adventure with her, but after her passing he has made the 600 kilometer journey alone. He said that sometimes he sings in the woods where no one is around and other time he sings in places like the Spanish Steps. But regardless of where he sings, he always feels very close to her. Their marriage of 41 years is symbolized by the their wedding rings shared among this man and his 3 sons. He said that they serve as a reminder of their roots.

I had been audio recording his singing and completely forgot that it was still recording as he was sharing his journey. At this point in the story the man stood up, said “God bless you” and then walked down the steps. You can hear everyone sobbing in the background. We were in complete awe of the moment. His story was so incredibly moving and an example of pure agape love. He only spoke for a couple of minutes, but that is all it took for us to see the radiant love he continues to have for his wife. I would have loved to sit with him for hours and just talk about life, but this short and unexpected encounter will forever be tied to my memories of the Spanish Steps. Before he turned the corner, this jolly man gave our group a goodbye wave and headed off on his journey with the most joyous smile ever. 

This meaningful moment taught me the importance of sacrifice in a relationship. Even after his wife’s death, he continues to share his love and honor for her through fulfilling his promise to sing. It is still hard to put this emotional experience into words, but I will never forget the way it made me, and others, feel. I understand why Dr. P thought we were all sad messes that night…it definitely looked that way! I was obviously sad that this man had lost the love of his life, but the raw emotions were more of a reaction of his love and commitment. It was so incredibly beautiful and one of those moments you just needed time to process. 

Another example of love that falls into the agape category is the love tied to religion. While exploring the Vatican, Lauren and I had a special moment in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta statue. We were at the very front of the crowd, admiring the body of Jesus in the arms of his mother, Mary. It was absolutely breathtaking. We talked about her strength and the love shining through her sculpted eyes. It is fascinating how a piece of stone can be carved to such perfection. 

The Vatican and city of Rome as a whole made me feel the overwhelming and never ending (definitely not lyrics stolen from reckless love) love of God. In so many situations it was apparent that He was working through the people on this experience. The sacrificial love of Jesus is the definition of agape love. This love is hard to put into words because nothing will ever do it justice. But dying on the cross for us was the ultimate sign of love from Jesus. The art throughout every city depicting Jesus on the cross further proved to me that God really is love.

One of my goals on CR was to strengthen my faith. I was prepared to wake up and read the bible every morning with others, but walking 15 miles a day and staying up until 3am chatting led me to snooze all 20 alarms I set each morning. Shoutout to my roommates (RIP cooper) throughout CR for dealing with my morning snoozes. So clearly I did not make the morning bible dates, but wowza I definitely found ways to grow in my faith that did not require an alarm. We visited MANY churches on this experience and in every single one I found myself deep in prayer, still in awe that I had the opportunity to go on this experience. I discovered more about how my faith drives my life and how this plays out on a daily basis. Whether it was our impromptu group prayer in the pitch black at dinner in the dark, or more personal talks about faith with others, I grew because of the way the people on CR guided me to become a better believer. I am forever thankful for the light that these people brought into my life. 

I hope I have revealed to the readers of this blog that there was LOTS of love in Rome. There are still many crossovers between these types of love and that is because the word itself is so subjective. But regardless of the setting, love is so incredibly important. Everyone desires to love and be loved. So don’t be afraid to share your love with others. You never know how much your love can change someones world. 

With all different types of love,

Claire

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