The topic of love has been on my mind a lot, lately. (For those who know me, that should come as no surprise.) I’ve done a great deal of thinking about what it means to love someone and what love really is. I think that one of the most profound explanations of love can be found over at Fr. Geoff’s blog today. The following is an excerpt from the wedding homily he posted:
It is true, there are very powerful feelings deeply intertwined with love; however, love is far more than merely a “feeling”. Love is a choice. A choice made in freedom. To place another human being and his/her needs on par with your own and perhaps, even above your own. A beautiful example of this can be found in the persons of your parents who are here with you today. There were many times, during your infancy, when one of them got up out of a warm bed in the middle of the night to take care of your needs. There were countless times, when the alarm clock sounded and they got up out of bed and went to work so, that you’d have a plate at the table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back. That’s love. Nothing fancy. Just ordinary people who chose to be there with and for each other. To help shoulder the burdens of life and, to share its joys and laughter. In the first letter of John (4:16) it states: God is love and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them. In the book of Genesis (1:26) it states that God made us in his image. When we chose to love, it is at precisely that moment, that we most perfectly reflect the image of God in our world. It is at that very moment when we are at our best, our most noble. It is no small thing that causes you to speak these words here today and to enter into marriage.
While Fr. Geoff and I may disagree on many theological points (some fine and some more fundamental), there is much on the topic of love where we can find some common ground. To me, love is all about doing those little things to help, support, and bring out the best in the person I love. It’s about providing a listening ear when they need to talk, a shoulder to bury their face in when they need to cry, or some chicken noodle soup when they’re sick.
But why do we do these things? Why do we make the choice that Fr. Geoff writes about? Is that were the feelings come in? To some degree, that’s the case. The feelings I have for someone definitely contributes to my desire to support, care for, and otherwise nurture them. But I think it goes beyond that, too.
I think that we often do this for the sake of love itself. I’m not talking about some sort of enlightened self-interest where we do these things in the hopes or with the expectation that the other person will do the same for us. (Though we all have those hopes, and I don’t think they’re inherently bad.) But there is something powerful in expressing love itself. To love and care for another brings out the best in us, something we desire to see and manifest. Once we allow that kind of virtue manifest through us, there is a certain sense of joy, which encourages us to do so again.
As I think of love and its expressions, I also think of fellow blogger Pam Hogeweide and her vigilante quest to discover, explore, and celebrate the ordinary. To me, the acts that most perfectly express love are firmly rooted in the “ordinary” life she (rightfully) finds underappreciated. But the thing is, it’s that love which fills those “ordinary” acts with the extraordinary. Giving a tired and achy loved one a much-needed backrub may be an “ordinary” action, but the love behind that act is far from ordinary. It’s a gift shining from the very core of one’s soul. And that makes it incredible.
Love is truly one of the greatest myteries of life.