At this time of the year, many people are thinking about… love.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate… love.
I read an article that posted the “Top 50 Love Songs of All Time“. I was surprised to find out that of the 50 most popular ‘love’ songs, only 7 were from this century. What’s that about? Have we lost that lovin feeling? No more power of love? Won’t love keep us together?
For a while, my husband and I led a group at our church designed to foster relationships, primarily with married/engaged couples. Occasionally, starry-eyed couples, ready to embark on that journey called marital bliss, would come to us and ask, “what is the one most important thing for a marriage to thrive”? Truly, we didn’t have a lot of expertise, but we had experience. And so we would share the one thing we believed necessary for a good relationship: love.
Not attraction, not chemistry, not affection, not animal magnetism, not warm fuzzy feelings — although all of those things are nice and may be part of the package, they aren’t found in the definition of love.
Many years ago, after we had dated a while, Bruce asked me to marry him. To me, that meant having him as my husband, helping me, taking care of me, making me laugh, traveling with me, keeping me company, counseling me, loving me. My ideas of marriage were based on what I would get, how my life would be enriched by adding him to it. Fortunately, that engagement didn’t last.
We broke up. After almost a year apart, I still wanted him, so much that I was willing to give anything to make that happen. And that was the key. For a life-long marriage relationship to flourish, we have to give. I had finally reached the understanding that I wanted to be his wife, not just have him as my husband. I discovered that this meant putting him first, considering his well-being over my own, wanting the best for him, because I loved him. That next engagement did last, for 35 years.
When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes say, “T’is better to give than to receive”. I would roll my eyes, thinking I probably wasn’t going to get that pony on my Christmas list. She didn’t say “T’is” very often either, so that made it even more memorable. But now that I’m all grown up, and then some, I would truly agree that I get so much more pleasure giving someone a special gift than I do from getting one. Most of the time.
So in response to the starry-eyed lovers, we would reply… Put each other first. Give them your best, as best you can. They, of course, would nod and smile, and cuddle as they walked away, thinking how easy that was. When you are trying to ‘win’ someone’s affections, you do that anyway. Time and familiarity can erode that incentive. The truth is, it’s not easy. Because humankind is basically self-centered, we have to change our attitude, re-direct our motivations and overcome our ‘self’. This doesn’t come naturally. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is not a mantra for a happy marriage, or for any relationship.
The ultimate definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, parts of which are probably familiar to many people. One versions of it says: Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Doesn’t force itself on others. Isn’t always “me first.” Doesn’t fly off the handle. Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Puts up with anything. Trusts God always. Always looks for the best. Never looks back. But keeps going to the end.
Maybe reading that makes you think, “Yeah! That’s what I want! Bring me that person!” The key to getting that person is being that person. Give that kind of love.
You probably won’t find that message in the ‘Top 50 Love Songs of All Time’. Yet, I don’t think anyone would admit to being a self-centered sweetheart, either. You wouldn’t hear the Partridge Family singing, “I think I love me“, or Stevie Wonder crooning, “I just called to say I love me“. The Beatles wouldn’t have shouted, “I love me, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and the Teddy Bears wouldn’t have been on the charts for weeks with “To know, know, kno-ow me is to love, love, lo-ove me, and I do.”
If we get it right, if we can master giving love to one another, love will keep us together.