A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to interview dozens of people for a video we were creating for our youth group. The question that I posed was simple, “What is love?” The answers were fascinating. Some people were convinced that love was a happy feeling that you get when you are dating someone special. Others described meeting their child for the first time. One person simply stated that their grandparents best defined love. Some included words such as sacrifice, emotion, Jesus, girlfriend, Banana Republic, and Starbucks. The range of responses was as varied as the people who were interviewed.
However, there was one thing that seemed to stand out as I began to piece together the video: Our society’s view of love had become tremendously thwarted.
I was taught from a very early age that love was a key part of marriage. I was surrounded with beautiful examples of it. My own parents have been married for over thirty-five years, and both sets of my grandparents have exceeded sixty years! I was taught that love is what held their marriages together, and because they loved each other so much, they were willing to sacrifice for the other person. That meant putting the needs of someone else before their own needs.
However, as a teenager, every time I would turn on the TV, people seemed to throw around the word love like it was nothing special. People loved their new vacuum. There didn’t seem to be much sacrifice involved in that. On TV, women paraded around in tight-fitting, low-cut clothing, and men seemed to love them. Magazines bombard me with the idea that you could find love if your makeup looked perfect and you had the proper shoes on.
All of these images confused me because they seemed to conflict with everything I knew to be true. I knew that to love meant to be willing to sacrifice and put the needs of another before your own. What did wearing makeup and high heels have to do with that? As I got older, I slowly began to realize that the image our culture promotes of love, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, is more focused on outward appearance and on using another person for pleasure.
Eventually, I realized that neither of these things were love. On the contrary, they were lust. Since, I try to steer clear of the seven deadly sins, because they are exactly that, deadly, I began to revisit a concept that had been promoted in my religion class growing up.
It was at that point that I began to put the puzzle pieces together. I had seen the examples of sacrifice and selflessness provided by my family. I had figured out that what I saw on TV and in magazines was most certainly not love. It was then that I began to truly comprehend the last piece.
God is love. I knew that to be true my whole life, but it took me years to really understand the magnitude of what that meant. If God was love then it must be God that held my family’s marriages together. It must be God that kept my grandmother by my grandfather’s side during those last few difficult years. It must be God in the hearts of my parents as they sacrificed time and time again to provide for my sister and me.
To love means to allow God to be in the center of our lives. If we live a life driven by Him, we will put the needs of others before our own. God gave us the perfect example of love when He sent His only Son to humbly die for all of mankind despite our sin. Having held my own child as she passed on to heaven, I now more than ever understand what a tremendous sacrifice that really was.
So this Valentine’s Day let’s strive to put the needs of others before our own and make God the center of all of our relationships. It is then that we will truly love.