This is the time of year when we tell special people how much we love them, and we hope they will love us back! When I was a kid we used to distribute valentines to all our classmates, and there would usually be one I would want to make a little special for one of the girls in the class.
At some point in our lives when we are young we usually ask someone a little older than us how we can know we really love someone. There is a popular notion that when you are in love you will just know it, but I am not sure I subscribe to that notion anymore. I have presided at a lot of weddings and seen a lot of people vow to each other that they will love the other forever, but then a few years down the road they go their separate ways.
“We weren’t really in love,” they say, or, “We got married for the wrong reasons.”
Some people search for their “soul mate,” the one who will make them happy all the time, and when that search is on, usually the result will be disastrous. I hate to tell you that there will be no one in the world who can make you happy all the time. Love does not work that way.
Too many times I see people who think they are in love when they have no idea what real love is.
“She makes me complete,” I have heard it said, or, “I feel so safe and secure with him.”
That is not love, friends. It is a wonderful emotion, but if you listen to the words, you see that it is entirely selfish. I am not married to Linda because she completes me; I like to think that I am already complete. She is not married to me because she feels safe and secure — I have snatched her up from where she was living happily to live somewhere else without consulting her much at all. That was the nature of my job.
Let me tell you what real love is. Real love begins by not being focused on yourself; it is entirely focused on the other. That focus is not on what the other can do for you, but it is on what you can do for the other.
We often think of love as that wonderful, gooey feeling we get in the pit of our stomach when we are with the other, and that really is a good thing; but that wonderful, gooey feeling will not always be there for you. We all change one way or another, and when we change, it can be hard on the other in our life. We may not understand what is going on, and we may not even like the changes taking place, but love pushes us to understand and celebrate what is happening with the other rather than causing resentment in our own selves.
Real love is a solid commitment to another that we will always be there for the other. When we say, “for better, for worse,” that means that when things get hard — and they will — and when the going gets rough, we will be the one to provide the strength and support the other needs to get through. And they will do the same for us.
I may have said it before, but it can stand being repeated, what I heard a lawyer say in a divorce. “Love is not flowers and violins. Love is two mules hitched together plowing a field. They may bump into each other, one may step on the other, one may get distracted for a time and need to be pulled back into the row. But they are looking toward the end of the row, working together to get there.”
Some couples have a unity candle lighting at their wedding, and I encourage them to keep the side candles lit because they are not giving up their individuality just because they are getting married. Each will continue to be who they are. Real love pushes us not to get from the other something we think we want, but to celebrate the other, to marvel at the wonderful human being they are, and to give all we are to see that they are happy.
Don’t let anyone tell you love is easy; it is not! But if you can surrender your own self to another knowing that they are surrendering themselves to you, you have found one of the most precious gifts in the world. Cherish it, strengthen it, and build on it. It comes right from God.
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com