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?