Love. We pursue it, we sing about it, we write stories about it. Advertisers invoke our love for parent, spouse, child, to sell greeting cards and toys and jewelry. But what is it? If you listen to all the above, you come away with the idea that love is passion, desire, warm fuzzies, tenderness, hugs and kisses and sex. That love is an emotion.
But it’s not. Love is a series of actions. Love is a choice. Love is a way of life.
There’s a Scripture passage that gets read at almost all weddings. It goes like this:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.”
-I Corinthians 13
This passage is overused, but it’s overused for a reason. It lays out a breathtakingly beautiful vision of life. Each of those phrases describes a choice–and not just any choice, but a choice that is frequently very difficult to make. Who among us does not succumb to impatience, rudeness, jealousy and pride? Are any of us immune to holding grudges? What is gossip if not “rejoicing over wrongdoing”?
But the real kicker in this passage is the end: love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. All. Not “some.” All. Conflicts of opinion. Growing apart. Alcoholism. Infidelity.
Emotions change. Love remains.
This is a huge, all-encompassing thing to ask of a human being. To love is a choice made again and again, moment by moment. It requires a complete gift of ourselves. Nothing else comes first; nothing can be held back. Not career, not hobbies, not time, not even our bodies. This is the justification for Catholic teaching on birth control: that love requires us to give our bodies in their entirety, with all of what God created in us intact.
Believe me, I know what I’m suggesting is no small potatoes. It’s hard, and for each of us, some facet is harder than another. Selfishness is my weakness–something I struggle with and pray about every day. But then, nothing worth having comes without labor. Everything I’ve written above, I’ve witnessed in action. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But it is beautiful.