Contrary to what you might think, love is a super difficult topic to delve into. After all, people have been writing about it since the beginning of time. What could lil’ ole me have to add to the conversation? Nothing new, I’m afraid, but maybe some observations from my own experiences. I won’t be taking you down some flowery path of feelings because I think that’s the aspect of love that gets the most attention but is the least reliable.
I think love is a choice, a promise, an act. It is selfless and honest and protective. I think it tastes like ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies snatched from the oven before they are completely cooked. I think it feels like fuzzy, comfy socks on a cold afternoon and warm air from the heater vent blowing up the back of my shirt as I sit on the floor and struggle to awaken on a winter’s morning. It sounds like a Jack Johnson song that’s fun and light and a little sassy. It smells like the thick aroma of comfort food that just wraps itself around you as you walk in the door of Momma’s house. It looks like a wide smile. That’s love to me.
My husband and I have been together twelve years, and don’t get me wrong. I’ve got some mad love vibes going on for my man; we’ve got feelings o’ plenty for each other. But I would argue that we feel that way because we regularly (if not always daily) choose to honor, respect, and serve each other – maybe even when we don’t feel like it. In his profession, Chris drives around two hundred miles or more a day. After his last call is made, he is ready to arrive home as soon as possible. As he nears his destination – more times than not – he will stop at a convenience stop and buy me a cold 20 ounce Diet Pepsi (I have an insatiable appetite for those things). Now I would offer a super healthy wager that he doesn’t feel like stopping to do that, but he chooses to, and that communicates love to me in a giant way.
I also think love is a promise to choose me even when I am most unlovable, which is more often than I care to admit. To me, there has to be a component of security and commitment in love that says, “I dig you – warts and all!” I take promises seriously, and I need love to assure me that it will stick around, that it can be trusted, that it is constant and unwavering, that it will not be offended by my bed head and morning breath, that it will persevere through PMS, and that it will look unafraid into the face of any emotional, irrational, hysterical behavior that I may exhibit on any given day (feel like I need to ask for an Amen after that one). It also means that I offer that same promise in the other direction; I will choose to love and respect him even when he works too late or leaves clothes tossed on the floor or when he disappoints me or when he’s just having an off day.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I am in no way claiming to be a super wife. Aiming to be one? Yes. We scrap like the best of ‘em, but there is safety even in our marital misunderstandings because we are committed to the promise.
Love is an act on behalf of the other. Sometimes I can pass on the last 100 Calorie chocolate snack in the pantry just so Chris can enjoy it later (but passing on a 100 Calorie Twinkie is out of the question, just so you know). Seriously, I have never met anyone more selfish than I am, but I am consciously trying to act on his behalf in more instances – to act in his best interest – to put his needs and wants before my own. So hard! Can we say, “I am woman, hear me rationalize”? I try so hard sometimes to justify why I need to gratify my own wants and needs, but my lines are always so lame. I can try to keep the girls out of the living room so he can watch some Clemson football, or I can understand that he just wants to go outside and bond with our grass on Saturday mornings during the spring. Whenever I can beat back my own selfishness, I can express love to him through my actions.
Love is selfless.
Love is sometimes painfully honest. Chris and I have become interested in examining the differences between men and women, the similarities and differences between us as individuals, and in better understanding how God wired each of us. We are currently reading companion books (For Women Only and For Men Only by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn) as we continue to study each other, and our research has generated a lot of healthy (albeit uncomfortable) conversation about temptations and frustrations and disappointments and needs. We have evaluated each other as partners, discussing strengths and areas for improvement, and that type of honest communication has better equipped us to guard our marriage in a culture that rages against it.
And you can believe nothing raises the hair on my neck like somebody slammin’ my guy. That’ll draw out sharpened claws, a neck roll, and three snaps in a minute. That’s because love is protective. He protects me, and I him, but more importantly, we are diligently protective of us.
I hope that we are never so arrogant to believe that our relationship is safe, impervious to the daily erosion that can occur. Honestly, we’re just trying to keep it real as we pursue our own happily ever after.