Last week, I learned a new Zo word: Itna. It was the title of chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians in Pastor Meng Pu's Bible, and as we laid our Words open side by side, I connected that this word, Itna, must mean love. When I asked for clarification, Meng Pu responded, "Yes, love-to-love." I've heard him use this phrase before, and haven't quite figured out what it means yet, so I probe further. "Are there different words that mean different kinds of love in your home language?" His confused face tells me I've used too many words, so I try again. "In English, 'love' is one word. 'I love my family, I love God, I love chocolate.' In Zo, one word? Or different words?" Understanding flashes a green light across his face. "Oh, different word, many different word. Itna mean big-love, God-love."
How else could you describe it? It isn't just a word on a page, and it isn't synonymous with "enjoy" or "like a lot." It is pro-active - it's touching, engaging, being personal and authentic and selfless. It is patient, kind, humble, honoring, selfless, even-tempered, and merciful. It gets excited and energized by the Truth being proclaimed and lived out. It trumps every admirable spiritual gift and discipline, and even faith itself, as the most important, the most eternal thing we can possess. It is the very best way to live, it is here and now, and it never ends. It is Big Love. God-Love.
I try to work out how Meng Pu chooses to translate Itna into everyday conversation: "love-to-love."
God is love, and he loves to love us - he lavishes his love on us so that we can be called his children (I John 3:1). It is his love that is Itna, his love that redeems, restores, adopts, and includes us in his great inheritance. Is this what "love to love" means?
When we receive God's love, then we are capable of loving God and others deeply and fully, and the love goes on - we truly know how to love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). So maybe it means that the love is passed on from One to another - love to love to love to love...
In some languages, to repeat a word is to amplify it, to make it more or greater than it is on its own. So maybe "love to love" is a repetitive, overlapping, ampliflying of what we commonly refer to as love. This isn't your regular garden-variety human-earth-based love. The way we love is just a shadow of the true love of the Father. One word just isn't enough to describe it... or is it?
Itna... Big Love. God-Love.