True Love

“Love, as distinct from ‘being in love’, is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will.”  –C.S. Lewis

This quote stirs me deeply as I think about how the word ‘love’ is thrown around these days. I love ice cream! I love football! I  love my dog! When performers say, ‘I love you’ from a stage in front of thousands of people, I think, “Really?  You don’t know me. You don’t even know my name!”

Society diminishes the word when it is used to apply to everything and everyone. True love is so much more than that. In fact, I believe it is the very foundation for life itself and the value we place on it. Love is the greatest gift we can give or receive. It goes to the very essence of all we were created to be. It is the glue that keeps us committed in our relationships. True love is not a feeling, an emotion or a fulfilled need; it is choice of the heart. I like the thought of it being as Lewis said, “a deep unity”.

After 29 years of marriage, I love my wife more than ever.  It is not measured by feelings but rather by faithfulness to our relationship, with each of us desiring the best for the other. Oh I have feelings of love but they are attained when I bring joy to her life, not when she brings it to mine. If we measured our love by feelings or moods, she would have a thousand reasons to leave me. However, we made a lifelong commitment to love each other. Love is not only a noun; it is a verb, an action word.
In our culture today, people easily justify walking away from relationships when they don’t feel loved. If true love governed our relationships we would experience so much joy that it could not be contained.

There are several Greek words for the English word ‘love’. The one I am talking about is ‘agape love’ – unconditional, non-negotiable love. If we are governed only by emotions, feelings or even opinions, we never really experience the depth of love we were designed to achieve.

There are times when my wife and I go through valleys in our relationship, as all couples do. Once it was quite intense, and lasted for some time. I was frustrated and didn’t really understand what was going on.  When we finally talked about it, she said she just didn’t feel my love any more. What?  How could she not feel my love?

Through this season, we chose to love each other – that verb again – by an act of our wills and apart from feelings until we could figure this out. We discovered two important things that may help you too:

1. Keep doing the things you once did to win her/his heart. If I expected to keep my wife’s heart, I needed to be active in loving her. When people first fall in love, they will do just about anything to win his or her heart. Then as time passes we become passive in our love. It is amazing how we all tend to do this. I realized I needed to LOVE her, not just be in love with her.  Love is a verb, an action that requires effort, thought and commitment. We need to be proactive in communicating love.

2. Speak the right language. We all have a primary love language as described in a great book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It identifies five different emotional love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. (An iPhone App is available to take the test to discover your dominant and secondary love languages.)

One day before learning this, my wife was out and I cleaned the whole house – top to bottom. It took me hours. When Sandi walked in, she spotted the one place I had missed. I was crushed! Couldn’t she see that I had worked so hard just to tell her I loved her? Her response was, “You have been so busy and don’t have time for me anymore, so why would you waste time cleaning the house?” She would rather I had not done it as it created more work for her to undo my ‘cleaning’.

I learned that day that I was not speaking her love language, which is Quality Time. She wanted me to spend un-interrupted time with her. That would have communicated my love to her in a way she could understand and feel. Wow! That would have been a lot more fun than scrubbing floors or cleaning bathrooms. You see the natural thing to do is to communicate in our own language – Acts of Service being mine. But that may not be your spouse’s, and the power of knowing theirs is that you can communicate love in a way they will feel emotionally. They will feel LOVED.

I am grateful that we were able to discover this truth. Although we always need to work at it. Sandi and I are learning to communicate in each other’s love language. Next June we celebrate 30 years of marriage and I am grateful for every minute.

So how can you discover True Love?

1. Let Love govern your decisions
2. Offer to discover each other’s Love Language
3. Valleys are opportunities for growth
4. Express your love often

I am sure there are many more and maybe you would like to add a few of your own.  Allow TRUE LOVE to win!