February...........the month when love is celebrated on the 14th. But what is it?

Do any of you know the history of Valentines Day?  If not, I would encourage you to look it up.  It is quite interesting to know where it came from, how it started and why we do what we do now because of it.  (Mind you, my husband is anti valentines because he says he doesn't need a man made day to tell him to bring his wife chocolate and  I don't mind because I do prefer surprises. :)  Now as I was preparing to write about this topic, I was having a bit of trouble and my thoughts were pretty scattered, but a friend of mine told me to use a spatula, scrape them together and get it done.  So this is what I scraped up ;).
The more I studied and read, the more I realized how amazing love is! I also realized my understanding of love has been at best, quite shallow.  This is a poem I wrote in high school, that made me see that I had been questioning and searching for answers then already.    

What Is Love?
Is it an attraction to a certain person without,
knowing what they are really like?
Is it their attitude without caring what,
the person looks like?
Or is it just a feeling that occurs when,
you meet somebody?
Could it be that you make yourself feel this way,
just because you want to?
A person that has something that you want,
you might pretend to love them,
but when you get what you want you leave?
Could it be possible that God makes you feel this way,
because it was just meant to be?
Or are your friends pushing you into it,
and you do it just so they will like you?
Or do you make yourself like a person,
just so your friend can't have him/her, 
because you don't think that they were meant to be?
Why do you love a person?
Maybe because your family doesn't give you the love they should?
Or could it possibly be just a need of the soul that needs to be fullfilled?
By: Laura Banman (now Martens)

If you notice, this poem shows how much I misunderstood love.  Most of it mentions love as a feeling, emotions and things very temporary.  
Many of you reading this, may or may not know the story that God has written in my life.  In this story, I have learned a great deal about what love IS. 

The dictionary has several definitions of love, which in my opinion just doesn't do it justice. Here are a few;
- an intense feeling of deep affection
- a person or thing that one loves
-unselfish loyal and benevolent concern 
- feel a deep romantic attachment to someone 
- to have a profoundly tender passionate affection for
Now, I'm no English scholar, but from what I've learned about verbs, they are actions.  Those verb definitions do not sound like actions at all.  It sounds like feelings and emotions just like the nouns.  So it bids the question........Is love more of a thing(feeling), or an action?  Can love be seen without action?  I don't think it can.  Love is feeling, emotion and connection put into action. But is that all?  Can love be an action without feeling or connection? 

LOL.........we all know what love FEELS like right? 

This is how someone put it......
"An intangible connection between two people that feels exceptionally good."
'The strength and depth of the connection is determined by two conditions.'
- the level of self acceptance each person has for themselves.
- how open, honest and exposed each individual is willing to be.
'Qualities always present with these connections are:'
- Trust -believing in their integrity and good intentions toward you
- Respect - concluding they are good and worthy of appreciation
- Affection - demostrating your good intentions through your actions
'Love is not an emotion. Love is the connection.  Your feelings are a reaction to the quality of that connection.'

Although I agree with some of what is said here, loving someone does not always involve a connection that feels good or even include trust, respect or affection. I believe that love is very often shown when there is no feeling or emotion of love present. (Let me tell you, I love my kids, but when my little guy comes to me for the second or third time at night (almost every night) waking me up, I don't always 'feel love' towards him.  But what do I do? I choose to go back to his room with him and pray with him because he was scared.  Now he will know my love by how I do that too.  If I do it grudgingly, he will be able to tell very easily.
Here's another one we often hear.  'You can't love anyone else unless you love yourself.'  I found one persons' description of this interesting.
"If there are aspects of yourself you reject, these issues are your hot buttons.  They're a source of discomfort.  When someone hits or gets near one of your buttons, you'll unmindfully react to the discomfort with blame, shame, disrespect and withhold your affection until the discomfort dissipates.  So even if you are a parent who profoundly loves your child, you will not be loving towards them when they tickle your insecurities."
"If this is true in a parent-child relationship, considered by many the most intense version of love a person can experience, you can imagine what it's like with a friend or spouse.  If they trigger something painful inside you, you'll react with fear, hurt or anger, not love.  That's why accepting all of yourself, creates ideal conditions for experiencing more and deeper love.  There's less button-stuff to get in the way."

When I  read this, it really resonated with me, because I could see how often this was happening in my life!
One condition extremely important with love is openness. In other words, being real, vulnerable and honest.  I have a feeling that the people you are closest to, are the ones who know who you really are.  They have seen you at your best and worst.  That works in reverse too. Masks make genuine love near impossible. Often we ask ourselves, 'Would they love me if they knew this about me?'  The truth is, that when someone knows the real you, and they stick around, the love is more powerful. 
Being open and honest is not easy! There are very real risks involved.

C. S. Lewis in 'The Four Loves' wrote;
"There is no safe investment.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless airless - it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation.  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell."

Bertrand Russel in 'The Conquest of Happiness' says;
"Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps
the most fatal to true happiness."

I asked this question on social media and few people were brave enough to give their answer.  Here's what I got..................
- Truth
- God sending Jesus
- Grace
- Sacrificing my feelings, wants, needs, etc. for the good of those I love.  Putting them first always.
- It's the essence of God
- Complete trust and support.  Not undermining each other.  Helping each other when they're down.
- Love is what Jesus did on the cross, died for us.
- Love is selfless kindness
- Love is sacrifice
All of these responses are great and encompass what love is.  (Of course you can get into the different types of love, but that's for another time :) 
Love is costly.  Love demands sacrifice and is not found anywhere in self-centeredness.  The saying goes....'You can give without loving but you can never love without giving.'

Any type of love requires some kind of sacrifice. Giving of our hearts, mind, soul, strength, time, etc.  Real love is not an impulse from a feeling.  Love is a choice and most often it is understood by our actions.  Anyone that is married, also knows that love is a choice. The masks that we often wear during the dating days eventually come off and we see how imperfect the other person really is. The lovey dovey 'feelings' also fade away and what are we left with? The opportunity to CHOOSE to love the real person. When we bear with the failings and weaknesses of others, they will understand love.  So what does that look like on a day to day basis? 
- not getting upset when your child accidentally breaks a precious glass item
- holding your tongue when you know you are right but 
  willing to be humble and keep peace instead of being a 'right-fighter'
- hugging your husband and being cheerful even though you may be feeling rejected and lonely and all you really want to do is blame him for not doing enough to make you feel loved.
- not loosing it when someone cuts you off in traffic (we don't know their story)
- being patient in line when someone didn't organize their price matching flyers (and it's taking forever....)
- when someone forgets something you asked them to do or get (I know WE never forget things....;)

These are just a few practical ways but I'm sure if you were to comment on this, we could get a really big list. 

Honore de Balzac in 'Physiologie Du Mariage' says,
"The more one judges, the less one loves."

How true that is! If we judge others by their failings and weaknesses, there is no room for love. 
We have the greatest example of love.  God sending His own Son to this earth. Jesus in His great love for us, became human and lived among us.  At times, He was tired, alone, rejected, tempted, in pain, and ultimately died. Sacrificing Himself for all of us! He CHOSE to do these things to SHOW us love.  Is there any greater demonstration of love than this?  When someone says 'I love you' but does nothing to show it, do you believe it?
So how can we love like Jesus? How do you love when you don't feel loved yourself?  When others actions towards you don't look like love?

Aristotle said, 'Love is composed of a single soul
inhabiting two bodies.'

When I read this, it was like an ah-ha moment for me.  What I seen in this statement was Jesus' soul/love inhabiting Him and me.  That the love in my soul, being so close to Jesus' love, that what people would see, IS the love of Jesus.  It exists in Him and if I want that kind of unconditional, sacrificial love to exist in me, my soul needs to be one with His.  

Did Jesus alway 'feel' love for His people? No, He didn't.  Do I always feel love? Not at all.  I didn't feel love for my husband when he confessed to watching pornography and being unfaithful. NO! Did I have the qualities of 'connection' with him that we read about trust, respect and affection? Absolutely not! But you know what love is?  It's genuine in it's actions.  It's the moment I got up, went to him and put my hands on either side of his face, looked into his eyes and said, 'God has forgiven me, how can I do any less for you?'  I tear up when I remember these times because love was very real and present there.  My husband has even told me that it was then, that he seen the love of Jesus.  

But how could I do something like that?  Because I was living loved!  I was living with the fullness of Gods love and assurance, because at that moment, I felt completely rejected by my man.  

My friends, that is how we can love and choose to do the things that are hard, sacrificial, selfless, costly and painful.  Love is a choice that is made easier when it comes from having the fullness of Gods love.  We will be more likely to set our selfishness aside.  I have been learning more about living loved from the book 'Uninvited' by Lysa TerKeurst. 

So ladies, I want you to remember that love is not a feeling of the heart, but a KNOWING in the mind that you are truly LOVED by Jesus! Not for who we pretend to be sometimes, but for who we REALLY are!  In living loved, we change how we respond to people and the actions we choose to show love.

Let's finish of by going to the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. Read them and meditate on them and maybe something new will stand out to you. 
Live Loved because without Love we are Nothing!

Laura Martens
Lighthouse Gospel Church

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