Before you start fuming or quit reading, let me clarify that these are characteristics found from time to time in the whole realm of love, but these characteristics alone do not determine what love is.
More than anything, love is a choice. Sure those sappy feelings may start your trek into love, and I pray that they make an appearance in your 'love life' often as your love progresses through the years, but one of the biggest lies we've come to believe is that the absence, even temporarily, of those 'feelings' means we can no longer love a person.
Here are some examples:
- Husband: I love my husband dearly. We entered our relationship with all of the sappy lovey feelings of most newly infatuated couples, and have seen those sappy lovey feelings several times through our 5 years of marriage. I can tell you (as he could also testify about me), that those sappy lovey feelings are not present after I've picked up his clothes, yet again, off of our bedroom floor. (Right beside his hamper for that matter.) And in fairness, his lovey feelings for me are never present when I refuse to do something because I'm afraid I may fail at it.
- Children: Nothing on this Earth can explain the love between a parent and a child. Really, just to ponder on it for a short time brings tears to my eyes. My husband holds my heart, for sure, but the love one holds for their children is a love that is unconditional and is full of responsibility. To say I love my son is an understatement. However, more than once daily the feelings he makes me feel are not those of love and contentment, but are those of frustration. I mean, really, how many times do I have to tell you to come in the bathroom so we can brush your teeth, or not to throw your hammer across the room, or to pick up your blocks? Grrrr! But it's during those moments God allows me the opportunity to take a step back, tame my anger, use a gentle voice and distribute discipline as well as grace. This is a learning opportunity for my son and for myself.
- Strangers: This is getting into the nitty gritty here. We're supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (and our neighbor isn't just the lady next door), but with our skewed view of what love really is (give me happy feelings, give me contentment, give me joy... give me give me give me), then how can we really show love to people who never give us any of those feelings. Sure, my son and my husband both give me moments of absolute 'lovey feeling' and emotion. I gain something in my relationship with them. They give me joy that neither one of them could ever comprehend... but what about that man on the street corner holding the sign? He has nothing to offer me. No relationship would give me those 'lovey' feelings. He has nothing to offer to make me feel as if I've gained something. Yet he is another I'm called to love. (Remember scripture points out that a person's love cannot be measured by giving love to their own family... as ALL people do this).
Just a thought.