01 Mar Real Love is a Verb
As I mentioned last week, I have been ill with the viral menace that has afflicted so many people in my area. During my time “out of commission” a friend’s birthday came and went without so much as a card from me. Valentine’s Day passed without my notice, as well. Usually I enjoy doing something embarrassing for my young adult son, but alas, not this year.
But that does not mean that love hasn’t been on my mind, especially after I came across these observations about love from author Don Riso:
- Real love is liberating for oneself and breaks old boundaries and restrictions.
- Real love seeks nothing for itself but is not self-forgetting.
- Real love is transparent and does not come from premeditation.
- Real love does not recapture the past nor does it guarantee the future.
- Real love is not clung to even though it heals old wounds.
- Real love is not afraid of taking risks nor is it about feeling safe.
- Real love is endlessly generative and cannot run out.
- Real love can suffer hurt and rejection and not strike out.
- Real love is something we already have, although we often do not know it.
Scripture says a lot about love as well. “God is love” and “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16, 18) are two of my favorite verses about love. Both the Bible and Don Riso remind us that contrary to popular thought, love is a verb. It is more action than feeling, more intention than emotion. We are swimming against a rip tide of cultural sentiment to speak the truth that love won’t always feel good. It often won’t be convenient. It will require painful sacrifice, patience and vulnerability, endurance and suffering. It will, blessedly, also bring us joy and delight. It will cause us to grow (which is almost always hard because it means we need to change.) Real love forces us to confront the “shadow side” of ourselves, to own that we are both self-serving and generous, manipulative and compassionate, cowardly and courageous. Love exposes the parts of us we would prefer to pretend don’t exist. But real love is also the only power that can transform us by calling us to bring our shadows into the light.
It is not uncommon for me to hear folks say that “the God of the New Testament, as revealed in Jesus, is a God of love.” Often that is juxtaposed against the view of God in the Old Testament as “a God of judgment.” I smile. There is nothing harder than Jesus’ call for us to love God, self, and neighbor as we have already been loved by God. We stand a better chance of successfully fulfilling the Ten Commandments and all the laws that come with them than we do of loving as patiently, graciously and wholly as God loves. But in those moments when we do love selflessly and sacrificially, we experience a moment of resurrection. We are united with God. We are one with ourselves and another. We are at peace with the creation. It is a blessed, beautiful wholeness and exactly what we are meant for. That is why it is tragic that we routinely settle for so much less which we do every time we give in to the impulse to defend or promote self.
Today, let’s choose the better way. How might you practice love as a verb before you go to sleep tonight?
Yours for the Kingdom,