What is Love?

With today being February 14th and Valentines Day we see heart shaped everything all around us.  Heart shaped biscuits (thanks Bojangles), heart shaped Reeses Peanut Butter candies, and who can forget the heart shaped donuts (thanks for that sugary delight Krispy Kreme). With all that heart shaped goodness it is a wonder that we all don’t have heart problems. Yet, I digress. With today being Valentines day it is natural to think about love. The question is ‘What is Love’?

Is love about being shot with an arrow by some sort of fat winged baby? We say that we are love struck where we have an infatuation with another person. Maybe you find yourself thinking about them all the time or you find your heart races and your palms get sweaty when you get near that particular person. Is this love? This MAY be the infantile beginnings of ‘love’, but can not and must not be classified as love.

Is love about raging emotions and passions? This is the ‘love’ we see in movies and TV shows. This is the ‘love’ of soap operas. This is a ‘love’ that is primarily physical. Yet is this truly love? Is love truly as fleeting as emotions and passions of here one day and gone the next? Is this love? While a romantic love will and must include emotions and passions, emotions and passion in and of themselves is not love. It is not love because love is greater than something fleeting. True love has resiliency. I always makes me sad when I hear a marriage is broken because a member of the couple says, “I feel out of love with ______.” If love is more, if love is greater, and if love has resiliency then raging emotions and passions can not be love. Further, raging emotions and passions can not be love because these raging emotions and passions are self motivated. Yes these emotions and passions are directed at another individual, yet it starts and finishes with what “I want” and what “I need”. It is self-centered not other-centered. True love must be other-centered. In and of it’s self this ‘love’ in reality is simply lust.

What is love? True love grows with the couple. While there will be certain things in love that will remain, true love will grown and shift through the seasons of time. As a pastor who counsels with couples one of the things I run into from time to time is the false expectancy that the feeling of love will remain the same throughout the life of the relationship. Yet in reality that puppy love will shift to a young love, and that love will shift to another level of love. We all wish that we could have 50+ years of marriage where we remained in the honeymoon phase, yet this is simply not the case and to have this expectancy leads to frustration and ultimately failure.

Love focuses on giving not taking. When love becomes self-centered it ceases to be love. Therefore love must be other-centered. If I’m focused on loving my wife and wanting the best for my wife and she is focused on loving me and wanting the best for me, this results in a happy, successful and fulfilling marriage. When my wife is focused on me, while I am focused on my wants, this will lead to things going awry and unfulfilling. That is one of the funny things about love and marriage: when each is focused on giving more, then each will receive more than they otherwise would have.

Love is that couple who has been married for 50 years holding hands in the park. Love is that spouse pushing the other in a wheel chair as they stay true even in the face of age or illness. Love is holding your loved ones hand as they breath their last. Love is working together as a couple even in the face of adversity: loss of job, a move, a poor financial decision, or a poor personal decision. Love is seeing your bride for the first time as they open the doors for them to walk down the aisle. Love is turning off the TV, putting down the phone, and grabbing those few minutes after the kids are in bed to talk about the day.  Love is that engagement story, that you have told what seems to be a million times. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8a NIV).”