Every living person craves it. Of course, some will deny it. Some still don’t understand it. Some even have a warped and twisted view of it, while others will live in pursuit of an elusive concept of it.
Consider it a warm and fuzzy feeling or a day-by-day choice, it remains the one thing in life that every living person wants in some form or another. Love.
Whether it be love for another human being, for a partner, a parent, a child, a friend – we are all capable of love, although our translation of it may differ. For me, romantic love has always been about ‘feelings’. You know what I’m talking about: that all-consuming feeling when you first meet a prospective partner, the way their touch can set your skin on fire, how a simple look can speak of a myriad of future promises … all those happy, excited and euphoric ‘feelings’ of being in love and of being loved. For a person like me, a person who wears their heart on their sleeve, falling in love is actually quite easy. But staying in love when the initial blaze has waned is a far harder task.
Staying in love requires a directional movement from the conditional love square on the game board to the unconditional one. Unconditional love is considered true love, and true love has staying power. It means learning to love another person without expecting anything in return. It also means putting the needs of that person above that of your own. For example, when you say your marriage vows, you pledge to commit to and love your partner for the rest of your days “until death do you part”. It doesn’t mean loving that person for as long as you still feel loved by them or until that person no longer gives you what you need. I wonder how many people really know what they’re getting into when they pledge before God to honour, cherish and love their husband/wife for the rest of days?
When the light-hearted, seemingly easy side of love fades, a decision needs to be made. That decision requires a bit more than just feeling like you love someone, it requires effort, hard work, commitment and an actual choice to love. It may even require frequent reminders as to why and how to love.
I believe that most of us battle with unselfishly loving another person such as our partner. I know that I do. I can go a step further and admit that I even battle to love myself; so trying to love another person unconditionally is far more complex that I would like it to be.
Luckily, while love is open to our own personal interpretation of it and is sadly influenced by past experiences and hurts, unconditional love has only one definition and one set of rules:
• Love is patient and kind.
• Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
• Love does not demand its own way.
• Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
• It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
• Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Cor 13:4-7)