True Love Takes Work

Love is a very big word. We casually use it every day when talking about the little things, like how much we love our stuff, the food we’re eating or a movie we just watched. But we also use it to show appreciation and devotion, what makes us happy and what can break our hearts. Love is a very big word.

The other day in church, our pastor focused on the section in 1 Corinthians 13 about love. He didn’t focus on the romantic definition, but on the word as a whole–what love looks like in friendships and families. The definition he gave was one I had never thought of before: “love is to desire and to do what is best for the other.” In other words, love is an action, it’s something you do to show you care rather than letting a feeling inside your chest dictate your behavior. He said, “If we wait for the feeling of love before we love, we will never love.” Wow.

In our culture, we celebrate the ideal of “love at first sight,” dreaming about the day when our “happy ever after” ending will come true.  But Love isn’t supposed to be an ending, it’s a beginning, it’s a journey that lasts a lifetime and beyond (yes, I am aware that I just paraphrased “The Swan Princess,” but stay with me).

Disney and fairy tales tell us that when our prince charming, or the princess of our dreams, enters into our lives, we will know without a shadow of a doubt that he or she is our true love. We’ll end up together, despite the small roadblocks needed to test our commitment, and achieve our “happily ever after.” However, as much as I love Disney I have yet to find that this well mapped out plan is the norm. I look around at the marriages my friends and parents and I can tell they have put in time and effort to their relationships. They care about their significant other enough to stick by them not matter what. That is love.

But while I was sitting there in church, I realized that type of love doesn’t exist solely for my future husband, but it extends to every single person I know. Yes, love requires work and can be inconvenient when all I want to do is watch Netflix or spend some quality time by myself. Sometimes I may not feeling like loving anyone for several days, but living life based on my feelings is, quite frankly, a fickle and lazy way of living. Love begins by taking time to look at the people around me, even the people I don’t particularly like, and ask myself, “How can I show them my love for them today?” Do they need help setting the table, or on a project, or simply need someone to listen to them? Do they need someone to fetch them coffee before they realize they want it, or to give them a smile and ask how their day was? True Love is in the little things, the mundane, the boring, and the definitely inconvenient things that take time away from ourselves; but loving in the small ways prepares us to love in the big, life-changing ways we dream about.

Sometimes movies and fairy tales get it right (such as “The Swan Princess” song I paraphrased earlier), but most of the time the story concludes with Love as the climatic and victorious ending. So, it makes sense why I’ve dreamed about someday living out my” happily ever after,” because that’s what the characters in books and movies almost always get. Now I know True Love is not defined by a feeling inside me, but a decision to stop looking at myself and to actively look at the needs of my family and friends instead. As challenging as it will be, I am going to start making the effort to show my love to others in the little things, the things that are inconvenient for me but mean the world to them. Who’s with me?

Failing Love

How many times a month do I sing about God’s unfailing love? There are lots of songs that are centered on theme of God’s unfailing, unending, unconditional love for humanity. I like to sing them because they remind me that though life is hard, God’s love for me will never end. But last night I got to thinking, do I love God with the same unconditional love He gives me? When I am physically in pain, stressed out and anxious do I become frustrated with God for letting these things happen to me? Or do I love Him despite how I feel? Is my love for God conditional on how my day goes or is it unconditional?

My goal in life is to become like Christ in everything I do; that includes how I love Him. I can count all the times I told God I want to love Him unconditionally on one finger; and today was the first time I told Him that. Honestly, I am disappointed in myself for accepting God’s unfailing love for me and not giving Him the same type of love in return. How I love should not be dictated by the situations in which I find myself. My love should be focused on Christ and His mercy for me instead. Thankfully, I have received my wake up call and will no longer let pain, anxiety, and stress keep me from loving God unconditionally every day.

One Word 365: Love

When I saw my friend write a blog post about One Word 365, I recalled hearing about it several years earlier. It sounded like fun, but I didn’t have a blog and forgot about it as the New Year picked up. This year, I wanted to join in on the fun. The interesting thing is that God told me my ‘word’ before I was reminded about One Word 365. I was at a friend’s house to celebrate the coming of 2014, and was happily catching up with one of my oldest and dearest friends. She mentioned that at the start of 2013 God gave her a word that would be her ‘theme word’ for the New Year. She challenged me to do the same, and I quietly thought on it for the rest of the evening.

We rang the new year in by spending the last moments of 2013 singing worship songs and praising God for all He did for us that year, and will do for us this year. As everyone sang around me, I quietly asked God what word He wanted to give me for 2014. What word needed to be the focal point of this coming year? Without hesitation, God told me ‘Love’ was to be my theme word for 2014. At first I balked at that idea because I thought that meant He wanted me to get married this year. I’m happy being single and have no desire to settle down and get married before I graduate college and get a job. So, I politely told God, “No, that’s not my word. Let’s pick a different one!” He didn’t change His mind, and continued to tell me that He wanted 2014 to be marked by Love. I knew I wouldn’t win and accepted it, though I still was unsure and not very thrilled about it.

Today was the first day I spent thinking about why God gave me the word ‘Love.’ I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Love. To help, I tried writing down everything I thought knew about it. I assumed I was going to write down things related to the romantic type of love, but I didn’t. I started to write down a paraphrased version 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. While I was thinking about the love between couples, something inside me was thinking about the true meaning of Love. It went something like this:

Love is patient, Love is kind, it is not boastful or envious, it is not proud. It does not keep a record of past wrongs, but forgives and moves joyfully on.

As I looked down at the list, I was humbled and ashamed to realize that I do not always live out this type of Love. I like to keep track of past wrongs done to me, I am proud, and do envy other people’s accomplishments instead of celebrating with them, and I’m not always patient with others. I also learned that Love is not just the romantic love, it is more than that. The Love described in the Bible can and should apply to everyone I already know, such as my friends and family. They are not excluded from this definition of Love, even if most people (like me) apply it to the couple getting married. Already, the concept of Love blows my mind, and I still have so much yet to learn.

Even though I now know it doesn’t mean what I originally thought, it’s going to take time for my mindset and heart to change and adjust to this new definition. As I learn more, I’ll share it here with you all. I encourage you to ask God for your own word for 2014. It’s not too late to join One Word 365, and you can find more information here. I’m looking forward to see what God will teach me this year. I know it will be a year unlike the ones I’ve had before.