This time of year, we often think about love. But the way we think about it can be a problem. Many of us think of love as a feeling. It’s your heart racing at the sight of that beautiful woman you’ve been dating the past 6 months. Or it’s that overwhelming desire that led you to get down on one knee and pop the question. Maybe it’s the way you feel when you’re snuggling on the sofa together. Many of us think this is what love is.
However, a better love is possible. We make ourselves passive actors when we are dependent on our emotions. It’s as though we are helpless in the face of some outside force that works upon us. But this better love isn’t something that sneaks up from the outside. It is cultivated within. Here’s what it’s like.
It starts with passion.
Passion and infatuation sneak up on you, seemingly at the whim of some great external force. They aren’t bad things. In fact, they can be wonderful. But they are not a solid enough foundation upon which to build anything that will last. Instead, we need a better love—a love that gives shape to these emotions so we can engage with them well.
It grows over time.
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis likens our passion, our affection, and even the sense of camaraderie we feel toward our friends, to a garden. What gives that garden its shape and enables it to flourish and bear fruit? The fence around it. That fence is love. And the love that gives shape to our lives is found in the nature of the Creator. It is self-giving and sacrificial.
It requires sacrifice.Sacrificial love chooses to be patient and kind.
For our romantic lives, our sex lives, and even our friendships to flourish, they cannot be rooted in the ebb and flow of our feelings. Instead, they must be framed by a better love that is defined by the choice to give of oneself for the good of another. Sacrificial love chooses to be patient and kind. It works and hopes for the good of another rather than its own self-interest. And it never fails.
It never ends.
Don’t assume your work here is finished because you did something romantic on Valentine’s Day. Work at being patient, kind, slow to anger, and quick to build up and encourage her. Build a relationship that is based on mutual respect and self-giving love. That, my friends, is the better way.
Sound off: How do you define love?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s one thing I do that assures you that I love you?”