Love is Action. It's the "do" and "be" in the marriage covenant, "Do you ....take....to be your..." Love is not a feeling. I love my husband. We've been married almost 10 years. While I still get those sharp lightening bolts down my spine every now and then when I look at him, I am pretty damn sure loving him is not that crazy hormonal state I was in when I first met him. That would have been something akin to lust and passion and need. Loving someone takes effort from time to time--hard, gut busting, tear filled, how did I ever marry you, we are never going to get past this, are we still arguing about this issue, work. But using the tools we have been given in love--patience, perseverance, forgiveness, truthfulness, hopefulness, and charity, we can build a love relationship that is almost perfect.
The Greek term agape translates into English as "love", but it means so much more than that. Wikipedia defines agape by referencing well-known author C. S. Lewis. "In his book The Four Loves, lists agape as describing the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other." ( Lewis, C. S. (June 5, 2002). The Four Loves. Fount. ISBN 0-00-628089-7. ) Since my husband and I committed to care more about each other than ourselves, our marriage works itself out--most of the time.
Love isn't an easy road. It's fraught with disappointment, loss of trust, selfishness, and human frailty. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we lose really big. It takes work to build something worthwhile and it takes more work to save something worth keeping. It is hard to love something that doesn't want to be loved. It is harder to forgive someone who doesn't want forgiveness. The amount of time and energy needed to rebuild trust that is lost is almost more than many of us have. It takes effort to extend charity to another person when you don't want to. If love were easy, we wouldn't have to pray "thy kingdom come," the kingdom would already be here. Don't kid yourself, you're going to hit snags. Sometimes your going to fall off the cliff. Sometimes a relationship can't be saved--whether a marriage, a parent-child, or friendship. Those are the most difficult moments.
I think love can also be defined as a natural extension of how you feel about human beings. How do you interact with people in general? Are you a trusting person? Do you have hope for something better out of people? Are you truthful with people? Do you nurture your friendships? Do you forgive easily? Do you give of yourself often? Are we acting out love as Jesus called us to? Do we reach beyond ourselves? Our ability to love is also based on our ability to receive love from others. Our capacity to love is exceeded only by our ability to forgive. Do we seek justice and mercy and honor and forgiveness and charity for others? The greatest commandment was to love one another. But this kind of love takes effort and prayer on your part. A commitment to the well-being of others regardless of yourself is not a mission to take lightly.
I think about love in this way. Love is a cup that is in a constant state of flow. The more love you pour out, the more love fills up your cup. The more love fills your cup, the more you want to pour out your love on others. So even when some acts of love fail, there are other acts of love that refill your cup, so that you will be able to act again. The love of Christ is constantly flowing out to us all the time. All we have to do is stand in the stream of it and let it flow over, around, and through us. We emerge strengthened in agape so that we may in turn practice agape with our spouse, our children, our friends, our community, and our world.
**The cup imagery comes from the "Companions in Christ" series and a beautiful explanation by my sister in Christ B.J. Neal. While I have adopted it as my own, it isn't my original idea. This imagery continues to sustain me and in using it again recently, I was reminded of this post. I felt I should credit the source, although I'm not sure I know which book the cup is in because we've talked about it in every text for four years now!