As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve discovered that one of my biggest pet peeves (just a notch below people who are inconsiderate!) is our world’s constant insistence on romanticizing love. I know this may sound a bit ironic. However, while love sometimes includes romance, true love is much, much more than that. I’ve often said that love requires action, but the truth is: love IS action. Just as faith without works is dead, love without action is also dead. To claim love without proving it is hypocritical at best.
A couple years ago, James and I had a difficult season. James was working 50+ hours at Enterprise, I was working 40+ hours at a preschool, we were working at our church 7-10 hours each week, and we had a 2-year-old and a very colicky baby.
It was a big transition time because we had added a new member to our family and moved houses at the same time that I found out that the preschool where I worked (and loved!) would be closing its doors soon. It was so hard. There were just so many changes and unknowns all at the same time and we rarely saw each other.
During times with so much stress, it is easy to be more irritable than normal. Arguments would arise over the most menial of things. We were stressed, sleep-deprived, and grouchy. But during this time, I began to dwell on what love really was all about.
I found myself falling into the trap of thinking of love as it’s portrayed to us by books, movies, and television, rather than the biblical truth of love. The idea that love is the rush of exhilaration and excitement when your hands touch or your eyes meet across a crowded room. The butterflies in your stomach and the giddiness at the sight of them. Now, there is a four letter “l” word for that, but it isn’t love!
Feelings fade. Emotions change with the slightest breeze (for me, anyway!). But love? Love is unchanging. Steadfast. Love is not dependent on emotion or circumstance. You hear about falling in and out of love, but I’d suggest that there’s no such thing. Because love stays when it is real. Love continues when your emotions change and times get tough.
So during this time of turmoil, I started to focus on what God says about love. For me, it seemed that every little argument was a fight I wanted to “win”. I put my pride above my relationship with James. So, I took a pen and piece of paper and copied down I Corinthians 13:4-8:
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”
And I carried it with me everywhere I went. I read it daily. I wanted to reinforce constantly in my mind that real love didn’t do the things I was doing. Real love doesn’t seek to “win” a fight. Real love always puts others first. It is patient and never self-serving. It is humble and long-lasting. It endures everything. It NEVER fails.
Reading this every day was so convicting, but with that came change. When I kept a reminder with me like that, it helped keep my focus on what really mattered. Am I doing these things? Or am I romanticizing love while ignoring the action at the root of the word?
Last year, James and I took our teenagers to church camp. During one of the lessons, D.J. Harris was talking about love. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing-I don’t remember his exact wording) “If I say that I love my wife because she cooks for me, and cleans, and takes good care of our kids, I’m not really saying why I love my wife. I’m telling you about how she loves me.” That has stuck with me all year.
Do my actions speak love to James? While I am a big advocate of telling people that you love them, people should know my love even if I never actually say the words. Because love is all about action. Love is a verb.
While most of this has dealt with spouses, it applies to anyone you love. I can say I love my kids, but do my actions show them? What about loving my neighbor? My enemy? With every action of my life, I should strive to bring glory to God and to love others.
Now, I don’t carry around my little paper with my reminder of true love anymore, but it stays on my bedside table. When I lose sight of what love really is, or when my emotional self is angry and “puffed up” and I need that reminder, I pick up that paper and apply it to my life.
If I can’t plug my name into I Corinthians and have those verses describe me, it reminds me to pray about it. To seek God’s help to make those changes to my heart and to my behavior. “Seeketh not her own” is my struggle. I want my way. I know best and obviously, any other way is stupid. But the truth is, love is selfless. And, through Christ, I can put that selfishness aside. For love.
Do you ever get caught in the trap of romanticizing love? What is your favorite verse about love?