One of the problems with our English language is that we don’t have enough words to express the nuances that other languages can convey. The Greek language, for example, has three main words for love: phileo, or friendship love, like in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love; eros, or lust, like in erotica; and the highest form of love, agape, which is usually associated with divine love.
Our problem in the United States is that our concept of love tends to be defined from Hollywood, where it is associated with a perpetual image of a combination of sexual satisfaction, romantic bliss, and no negatives. As starry-eyed teens, we female types stumble around creating every handsome boy into our image of the Perfect Man. Unfortunately, when we get to know him—especially after we marry the guy—he turns out to have clay feet. This love god with clay feet cannot make us happy, so do we dump him and chase after the next guy we try to create after our own image?
What is love, then, in truth? As we look at a living bravely life this year in MOPS, I will be talking a lot about choices we make. Each fruit of the Spirit is a choice, and Love is supremely a choice. Oh, I know, Hollywood leaves us with our eyes brimming and our heart fluttering, but when we wake up with old morning breath over there, it comes down to a Choice. When he has no idea what he has done to hurt your feelings, can you forgive him, whether you feel like it or not? Has he forgotten your birthday or your anniversary? Has he left you exhausted with screaming children to go play darts? He has grown up in a different family, and brings to the marriage his own baggage of hurts, his own ways of expressing love (or not! I married a Scotsman who thought tenderness was weakness. I asked him once why he never told me he loved me, and his answer: “I married you, didn’t I? I bring the paycheck home every week, don’t I?”) It’s taken me a long time to convince him women need to HEAR it, over and over.)
As Moms we have daily opportunities to choose to love. I don’t need to tell you that tantrum-throwing toddlers don’t evoke feelings of love. When the little brat hollers “NO!” in your face and bops you one, our inclination is to strike out. As mature women—most of the time—we know that striking out doesn’t teach and train. We choose to moderate our response, exercising restraint and discipline. The feelings come when the little angels are asleep and look so innocent and sweet! Or when they little arms curve around your neck, and they say: “I love you best of all.”
Love then is choosing, willing the very best for another and deciding to work toward making that happen. It means getting up in the middle of the night and cleaning up puke—don’t we all just feel lovey-dovey then? It means setting aside your book to read his, giving up your new shoes to buy ones for their growing feet, giving up your vacation because you have hospital bills. It’s living on one salary so you can be there to teach and to guide.
I always tell young women, if you choose to love, if you choose to forgive, if you act loving and forgiving, the feelings will surely follow. If I could give you the one secret to being married for ocer 50 years, it is this: don’t ever let him suspect that you don’t feel loving at this moment. Feelings are fickle things; they change with PMS, with lack of sleep, with bad news. Choose Love—you aren’t really faking it, you are just acting in faith, knowing that your feelings lie and they will fall into line if you stay the course.
Whether it’s in MOPS, in church, at work or play, choose love. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit and available by His grace. Paul wrote that three things endure forever: faith, hope, and the agape kind of love, and the greatest of these is love. If your love tank is running on empty, remember, God is love, and only He can give you the love you need for your husband, your children and your friends.
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