What are you, man, if you do not learn love?

Some years ago, a darling friend introduced me to the thought-provoking, heart-searching music of Shawn McDonald. One of his songs remains a trusted friend of mine because of one line: “What are you, man, if you do not learn love?”

The title of the song is the answer: Simply Nothing.

That is some good truth right there.

Over these years of growing and failing and running and failing and seeking desperately after this God I long to serve (and failing so miserably at times that it aches in the deep places), I have learned to ask myself Shawn’s question: What are you if you do not learn love?

The answer, of course, is nothing. But where I get caught up is in the need for the question itself. I find myself asking this question when I’m feeling wholly unloving,  and wholly unloved myself. It is in those moments of soul-searching, of wondering how it got to be all about time and money and pressure and performance, of aching painfully for some quiet time with my Lord and some solace from the storms…that is when I ask. What are you if you do not learn love?

It is on days like today that I ask. Days when I feel like I got stepped on too much, when I feel like I stepped over people too much, when I feel like I said the wrong thing, when I teased an already aching fellow soul, when I spoke too harshly in a hurried moment, when I lashed out from my own hurt. When there was no love in any word I said, or any action I did. That’s when I am nothing. And those moments are happening far too frequently these days.

In order for me, for US, to love, we have to remember that we are loved. It is what we are because of who He is. I forget that sometimes. So I forget to love in turn. I believe I was called, I was made, I was created to love. Whether I am loved or not by fellow souls, I am loved by the One who loves and saves. In my humanness, that doesn’t always feel like enough. So what pours out is not love but partial love. And partial love doesn’t cut it. It is not enough.

What am I if I do not learn love after everything I have been through in my small 32 years? Simply nothing. Nothing at all.


If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. // 1 Corinthians 13, NASB