When I was a little girl, love had a very distinct feel. It was prince charming sweeping his princess off her feet and carrying her into the sunset. There was no need to question it. I knew it when I saw it.
Growing up, however, brought about the reality that relationships are not nearly as black-and-white as I wish they were. There may be an initial spark, but time inevitably brings challenges and reveals differing perspectives.
How do we live alongside each other when life requires ruminating on puzzles that don’t always have correct answers? What is love in an often gray world without musical numbers to neatly package the depth of human emotion?
My sister is committed to school. She attends to her homework diligently, strives to get good grades, and attends all of her classes. Yet she once fell so ill she actually proposed staying home the next day.
Concerned, I sought to give her space, yet she—already knowing I was getting ready for a formal event that evening—came in to help me do my hair and nails.
I watched her, silently resigned as she pushed through a headache and put-out throat, yet working for my benefit.
“What did I do to deserve this?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she replied. “That’s why we call it love.”
She’s right. As C.S. Lewis said, “Love, according to the Bible, is toward others.” It’s saying “you first.” It’s for another’s benefit, regardless of how you feel.
When someone helps you and they’re struggling, that’s not help, that’s love.
“Agape denotes a reasoned-out love, rather than an emotionally based love (but not devoid of emotion), one that loves the object irrespective of the worth of the object and even though the love may not be reciprocated.”-Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology
When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it not by how much you want to receive it but how much you’re willing to give yourself to someone.
As Amy Carmichael once said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
This ripples out in myriads of ways, from trivial things you can give up in the day-to-day to the ultimate of giving your life. Examples of this kind of love are all over media:
- Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor when he hijacked a bomber aircraft and blew it up mid-flight
- Inside Out: Bing Bong when he threw himself from the rocket so it could save Joy
- Rogue One: The team’s dedication to fulfill a suicide mission for a better future
- Endgame: Natasha Romanoff when she took the price of the infinity stone for Clint
While Thanos sacrificed his daughter for a better world for himself, Tony sacrificed himself for a better world for his daughter. Note the difference.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”-John 15:13
If you are not willing to die for someone, never tell them you love them.
Love is like a stretched rubber band held at the ends by two people: a beautiful balance of teamwork, trust, and vulnerability.
In a reciprocal relationship, love is open and transparent. It’s letting another in on the good, bad, and really ugly of who you are. It’s giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to.
Love is a choice, not an emotion. It’s patience, longevity, and becoming.
True love isn’t found. It’s built. As Dieter Uchtdorf once said, “Great marriages are built brick by brick, day after day, over a lifetime.”
“Great marriages don’t happen by luck or by accident. They are the result of a consistent investment of time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, affection, prayer, mutual respect, and a rock-solid commitment between a husband and wife.”
Love is commitment to the well-being of another without conditions. It’s saying, “I’m holding up my end of the bargain even when you drop yours.”
True love isn’t problem-free, it’s true because both people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work.
Love is about consistency and maturity, sitting down and saying, “This is what I think our problem is and this is how I think we can fix it. What do you think?”
“You don’t fall into love. You commit to it. Love is saying I will be there no matter what.”-Tim Keller
Love stays around even when it’s not ideal. Love says the hard but necessary thing and “nothing you do will make me walk away from this.”
A strong marriage is made up of two people who choose to love each other even when they struggle to like each other.
“Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”-George Zalucki
Love is not a noun to be defined but a verb to be acted upon. It’s the little things you do every day to show you care and that you’re thinking of them.
It’s holding their hand when they’re scared, letting them have your share, diverting from the task at hand to hear about their day, and dancing in the kitchen.
“You don’t have to say, ‘I love you’ to express your love for someone else. Love can come in the form of a lingering gaze, a hand intertwined with another, a flash of a smile, or a tender embrace. Love is often what we don’t say — it’s what we do.”
Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say I love you, but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true.
You could also say “I love you” all day long, but that doesn’t make it true either. Your life makes it true. Don’t be so busy telling people you love them that you don’t get around to actually loving them.
Love gives one the strength to bear more ugliness and heartbreak than could otherwise be taken. Flaws, brokenness, and innate depravity. Love sees the darkness but doesn’t run away.
It’s not about loving a perfect person but learning to love an imperfect person perfectly, like the ocean: returning to kiss the shoreline no matter how many times it is sent away.
“For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives—to both, but perhaps especially to the woman—a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Love that is present in light of knowledge is real love.
Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that: It lights the whole sky.
This is a glimpse of what love looks like in its pure and unadulterated form, but we as human beings are not capable of loving perfectly. We get lost, we make mistakes, we need to be redirected.
While it is good for us to study what love is, we will never be able to truly love until we know Who Love is. He is the source, we are merely outsourcing.
Marriage is an ongoing, vivid illustration of what it costs to love an imperfect person unconditionally, the same way Christ has loved us.
As Paul Washer once said, “I have given Christ countless reasons not to love me. None of them changed His mind.”
Jesus died for us knowing we might never love Him back. That is true love. May we love others the same.