What is Love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Unfulfilled Love

Now that is a tall order. Can anything really live up to this? I mean most of us can surely think of more examples of "love’s failure" to live up to this hype than examples illustrating this amazing mystical, mythical conception of love. Sure, we love those songs that drone on and on about love taking our breath away, or lifting us up, but everyday experience is often more of a letdown. Love just doesn’t seem to be doing its job. Love is supposed to be making me happy, it’s supposed to be giving me purpose, and it’s supposed to make me feel good. Some people are so disillusioned, they aren’t really even sure there is any kind of lasting, endearing, trustworthy love. There is "the best we can do love", we ride it out until it breaks down and then we have to go shopping for "new love", or at least "new to us love".

So the question of the hour is, what is love? How do we find it? If we follow popular songs and ideas, love seems to be something we fall into (like a trap?) or fall out of (like a window). It seems to happen to us without any warning or control.

Promises, promises

It is interesting that many definitions of love are only focused on a produced feeling. Of course anyone that has been in a committed relationship (or that is a parent) will tell you, you can’t always count on feelings. Feelings are too transient, they come and go. Don’t get me wrong, if there aren’t any good feelings in a relationship, something is definitely wrong. However, feelings are not usually the best indicators of the value or state of something in and of themselves. After all, I love my job, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when I don’t "feel" like doing my job. Sometimes in the morning I want to roll back over and go back to sleep, or because I am tired, or ill, I just want to collapse and call it a day. The point being that it is not a feeling that keeps marriages, friendships, and families going. No, it is a commitment, the decision to stay, that keeps the feelings going.

Measure Twice….

So what about those times when love just doesn’t measure up, or doesn’t look the part? Well, how love appears is dependent on how love is expressed. Love is not faulty or fake just because my experience with others has not been a reflection of this. When our experience of "love" is that it is not patient or kind, or that it is selfish or abusive, we need to remember that love did not fail, a person did. The ideal we are trying to live up to, the blueprint if you will, is not wrong. Love works, it is everything it is cracked up to be. It may have been constructed wrong, poorly maintained, or inappropriately used, but love didn’t fail, just the expression of it did.

Consider an architect that produces a beautiful blueprint for a dream home. It’s got everything. It’s spacious, well laid out, comfortable, and unique. You love the plans for this house. So you hire a contractor to build this dream house, but it’s a disaster. It is poorly constructed, cramped and uncomfortable. Later when talking to the contractor you find out he made a lot of guesses, didn’t refer much to the blue prints, and overall thought "I guess this is good enough. I didn’t really feel like making sure that was square" or "building things up to code", or "using the best materials". Do you conclude that the house can’t be built? That dream houses are just that, a dream. Of course not, you think "listen here buster, you can either fix this, or I am not paying and I’ll find someone who wants to build this house the right way". My point is, it’s not the architects fault my contractor didn’t build love the right way (I am aware that architects could draw up faulty plans, but my point is if you have a good architect, you need a good contractor to realize those plans). In the case of our relationships we are one of those builders involved in making our dream house.

The House that Love Built

Perhaps a good picture of love is the "house that love built", the Ronald McDonald house. The first house opened in 1974 and has been a haven for families suffering tragedy since that time. It is built on serving others, valuing others, and although it no doubt gives those in its employ, or those volunteering, a good feeling at times, that‘s not what keeps it running. Even on the tough days when that feeling may not be there and is replaced by exhaustion and frustration, the doors are open and they keep doing the things they know to do. That’s because these "builders" have a common goal, they know what this house is supposed to do. They know this house runs on a commitment.

So think about it, are you checking the blueprint of what love is supposed to look like? Or are you winging it and then looking back with disappointment at "love’s failure". Are you setting healthy boundaries with your co-builder and letting them know when changes need to be made? The truth is, no one is perfect and mistakes will be made, but we can keep looking at the blueprint and making adjustments and repairs to the love we are trying to build. It is a work in progress. Are you "Lovin' it"?