Love is…

February. For a lot of people this is a bleh month. You’re over winter; it’s not warm enough for spring; school breaks seem oh-so-far away and, ah yes, if you are single, well it is likely you DESPISE this time of year.  This month, we will be talking about love. I know. Original, right?  But the goal is to talk about love in ways you haven’t thought of before and to know four things immediately before we go any further:

1 – It is okay to be confused about love.

2 – It is okay to be in love.

3 – It is okay to not be in love.

4 – It is okay to respond to any of these statements with chocolate.

So, what is love? The dictionary says love is “an intense feeling of deep affection.”  My favorite classic author, Jane Austen, says this about love: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.” Agony. Hope. That sounds about right.  If all you know about love is what you see on TV or in a movie, you don’t know much. Because guess what? MOVIES ARE NOT REAL. I know- shocking! When characters in a movie fall in love, the credits roll and all is well and perfect. Movies don’t show the night that Channing Tatum’s character got food poisoning and threw up all over himself and your favorite couch/blanket/dog, or the fact that Anne Hathaway’s character couldn’t maintain a 1,000 calorie a day diet and gained 50 pounds. Real love is the relationships that deal with this and still love each other through it all!

In all seriousness, love is a beautiful, amazing, special, even holy part of life that I 100% believe God wants for all of us.  But we have sort of a twisted view of what love is, especially around Valentine’s Day with all the pinks and reds and romantic movies and sappy greeting cards. But love is not a pink teddy bear with a heart. Love is the mother who picks up an extra shift at work so she has some extra cash for her daughter’s birthday present. Love is the older sister who cancels plans and chooses to hang out with the younger sister instead.  Love is the girlfriend who respects the guy who wants to have a night with his friends. Love is the boyfriend who respects his girl’s desire to keep her virginity sacred. Love is about someone else.

The Bible has a lot to say about love, but this is probably the most common and well-known:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

That’s more like it. Do you know what this definition of love tells me? Love is about complementing someone else and putting others first. Now to be clear, this does not mean sacrificing your own values or being miserable by trying to make someone else “happy.” You can never fill the space in someone else’s life that should be reserved for Jesus Christ. You can contribute to that joy – absolutely you can! – but you cannot replace it. That is not love.

If you try everything you can to be what you think someone else will love, you’re doing it wrong. Because no matter how you look, what you weigh, how you act, what you say, how much money you have, what you do or what you change about yourself, you will never make someone fall in love with you. You may manipulate them, maybe even to the point where they think they are in love with you, but who they love is a lie and one day this WILL backfire. Maybe you will come to hate the person you were pretending to be? Maybe he will? This will only lead to resentment, bitterness and anger…no good for either of you.

Love is when you put others first and that feeling of giving makes you happy! If you have ever given someone a gift that they love, you know that feeling of joy that you have done something to bring joy to someone else…and you want more, right? It makes you want to try even harder to find another perfect present the next time you shop for them or someone else because that joy you had is contagious and you want more! That is the feeling you have when you show love to someone. It brings you both joy without any conditions or guilt or frustration.

Love isn’t easy. I’m not just talking about break-ups; even when you’re in love it is hard. Because you love someone, all of the fights, arguments and disappointments are ten times worse because you are so interwoven with this person, that as much happiness that the joy brings, the hurt cuts deeper than you could have imagined. But love is also working through the sacrifices and pain knowing that the end result is worth it. You know what else the Bible says about love?

“For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

God’s love for us was standing by while His own son was shamed and tortured and killed. Jesus endured all of this for us and our salvation. You don’t need a bouquet of flowers or a chocolate covered strawberries. You don’t need an elaborate date night or mysterious secret admirer. You only need to know Jesus to know love; you only need to know that you have love because He loves us.  Every amazing person in your life that YOU love is because of HIS love.

My definition of love that you can use whether you are single, dating, in a serious relationship, in a complicated one or have sworn off love period because love in your life isn’t dependent on your status with a man. I believe it is:

“Love is all about lifting up another person, to show compassion without complaining; it is bringing out the best in someone else where in doing so, you also bring out the best in yourself.”

#JournalJourney: Think about love. Find your favorite scriptures, movie lines, book quotes or poems that talk about love. What do you like about each of them? What stands out the most? Now make up your own definition…is this how you really show love to others? Make your new definition a guideline for how you treat those that you love.

Scripture: Romans 8:37-39, John 15:9-17

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