Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. That’s one of my favorite (or most convicting) quotes from several of my favorite mentors. It’s a very counter-culture statement because our culture says to go with your feelings, do what makes you feel happy, love as many people, as often as you can. Love is about making you FEEL good. Blah blah blah. But that’s not what Biblical love is at all.
Now, this concept is really convicting for me and really, really hard. I’m an ENFP, which means I make a lot of decisions based on my feelings. I love change, I love spontaneity, and I LOVE feeling happy. So when faced with this dilemma that, as Christians, our primary trait should be our love, the way we love others, it’s downright terrifying. One of the reasons for this is that love requires self-denial. Real love requires us to put aside our own selfishness and our own feelings for someone else. Love isn’t about how someone else makes you feel, it’s about putting love into action (usually at the expense of your comfort). So with all of that said, I’m missing the mark in major ways. I need a “Love for Dummies” book so I can live out this whole love concept.
One thing we talked about recently is that if love is a verb, and love does, then what does that mean for us practically speaking? Intentionality came to mind. For me, it is going to take intentionality in order to love others the way God calls us to.
Intentionality with God. When I make spending time with God a priority, finding what stirs your affections for Him and doing it regularly, I’m a better wife, mother, friend and worker. There’s NO way I can be good at all of those things if I’m not intentional about my time with my Heavenly Father, my only real source of joy and fulfillment. Oh, I’ll try and fill it with a million other things, but I’ll end up empty, and something very far from loving at the end of the day. More like selfish and irritated. Ugh. So, what makes you feel closer to God? For Daniel it’s worship. For others its being outside, surfing, running. For me it’s intentional time in His word and just talking to Him through journaling (or even praying out loud when my brain is fried and I’m overwhelmed). It’s important to be intentional about that thing that draws you close to Him, allows you to hear from Him, and helps you live out of His Spirit and not our selfish, self-serving selves. (Lotta selves in there).
Intentionality in the daily rhythms of life. Taking love into action with your family, friends, coworkers or neighbors in the everyday rhythms of life can be the hard. I mean, we are BUSY, we have to get from point A to point B, ain’t nobody got time for that kind of intentional love. We’ve all experienced the tug at our soul to do for someone else, but how often do we follow through? A friend has been down, so making the decision to go see her instead of hitting the gym. Or your coworker lost someone, so taking the time to drive WAY out of the way to take her dinner one night in spite of rush hour. Or for me, it’s picking up the phone to call someone. I HATE the phone and also feel a weird sort of social anxiety about it for some crazy reason. So it takes real intentionality for me to do it, and I need to get over myself and do it more. It’s those kinds of inconveniences to our normal schedule that are so hard to do, but when intentional, give us more joy than getting home an hour earlier to get that last bit of work done for the day. At home, it might be intentional time at home with your family. PUT THE PHONE DOWN and spend some quality time together over dinner. Daniel and I are realizing we are setting a very bad example for our child in how much we look at our phones at home. And this doesn’t need to be a sacrifice to your work, just intentional time spent with your loved ones, thirty minutes of face to face attention with the people you love most in the world.
Intentionality in your marriage. WHOOOO, this one is a doozy, and can be the hardest for sure. Daniel and I have now been married 7.5 years and are in a season where we are learning that you have to intentionally fight for things that are good. “Nothing good comes easily, sometimes you’ve got to fight” (Thanks 311). Marriage can make you see your own selfishness more than anything else can. But, Marriage also gives us the greatest opportunity to die to ourselves each day and intentionally love our spouse, ESPECIALLY when we don’t feel like it. For me, this is hard because it’s most often the people you love the most, and feel most loved by, that you neglect to show love to. Or we are our ugliest selves with our spouse, so it’s easy to let pride and resentment creep in when expectations aren’t met. But, I read recently that marriage is the best picture of the Gospel we’ll ever receive. It’s that we have to wake up everyday, fight the urge to be right, have expectations met or be resentful, and die to ourselves. Wake up and put on our grace pants and love that person (not with some feeling we can’t see or touch, but with actual action and intentionality). Pastor Joby often says, “You can be right or you can be married.” and MAN is that hard to put into practice. But if we’re called to love our spouse like Christ loves the church, then shouldn’t our grace be new every morning as well? Shouldn’t we be patient and kind, keep no record of wrongs (this one kills me) and put aside our wants and needs for that person? Believe me when I say that this is much easier to write than put into practice, but we’re in a season of learning what each other truly needs, and how we can intentionally love one another better. I think it starts with communication. For Daniel and I it was having VERY hard conversations about what we both need in order to feel more loved, and then it’s a process of dying to ourselves and doing more of those things. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so I know that intentional love in our marriages will reap long-term benefits far more than giving up. I don’t know about you, but I want to beat the statistics and have the kind of marriage God intended, full of love and grace for one another, and I think our kids will be better for it too!