Updated: Jun 29, 2022
From an early age, I have always loved the idea of love. I was that little girl who had her wedding all planned out before reaching middle school. My husband would be named John, we'd have 10 children (because I had ten really cool names picked out and wanted to use them all), and our love story would be nothing short of a Cinderella fairytale. I was certain that true love would be effortless.
Sure, Cinderella had a crazy step-family, but she also had a loyal team of animals who had her back and an awesome fairy godmother who would make it possible for her to hook Mr. Right. It would only take one dance, one night, one encounter for Prince Charming to be so enthralled that he would search the entire kingdom to find his true love and whisk her away to their happily ever after.
Middle school is where life would begin to dash my Cinderella dreams. I'd have my first "crush-break." You know what I'm talking about. It's not as intense as a heartbreak because there wasn't an actual relationship involved. A "crush-break" occurs when you had a crush on someone hoping things would blossom into something greater only to find out they never would. For me, it was preparation for the experiences to come.
As high school would unfold, I'd survive more disappointments as I searched for this thing called "love." Junior year, I would make another attempt as I was certain this time it would last forever-- if I just tried hard enough. It wouldn't take long for that relationship to become an unhealthy one. I'll never forget my aunt's words to me as she patiently listened to my plight. She said, "Love shouldn't take this much work, Shelby."
What I've learned in life is this-- my aunt was wrong. Love DOES take work. Falling in love is passive. But love, all by itself, is active. Take a look at this familiar passage and pay close attention to the action words and implications. I've underlined a few phrases that I'll break down later.
"Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful,
and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or
arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked
[nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account
a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth
[when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes],
believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things
[remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things
[without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (AMP)
I used to dismiss 1 Corinthians 13 as the ideal love that God has for us. However, God is telling us the criteria here for our love to one another, to Him! Love is not passive and does not just happen. Love is active, and love is a choice.
Now ask yourself, "Who do I love?" Do you love your kids? Of course, you would say "yes," but according to this passage, do you really? Do you love your friends? Do you love your parents? Do you love your spouse? Now, think of the implications when Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44)!! Let's take a deeper look.
"Love endures with patience and serenity..." You may think you are loving someone right now because you've stuck around, but in your endurance, is your posture a patient and serene one? Are you carrying peace while your loved one is making decisions with which you don't agree? Are you tapping your foot (literally or metaphorically) with impatience or are you maintaining an atmosphere of tolerance and tranquility?
"...love is kind and thoughtful..." It's not just good-natured, love also thinks ahead. When was the last time you went the extra mile for your loved one by foreseeing something they may need from you and meeting that need? Do you consider the pressures on their life before dumping all your problems on them? Love is thoughtful.
"...nor overly sensitive and easily angered..." I love that the passage doesn't ask for your personality profile. It doesn't care that you have anger issues or that you're a touchy person, it simply says love isn't overly sensitive and doesn't get angry easily. That means both of those things are a choice. They may be harder choices for some than others, but those emotions can be controlled. If you say you love a person, why do you constantly get upset by their words, decisions, and actions?
"Love bears all things [regardless of what comes]..." This is the excuse killer. It doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter what attacks the relationship. It doesn't matter what the person goes through. It doesn't matter that the kid screamed "I hate you" before storming out the door thirteen years ago. Real love bears all things regardless of what comes.
"...believes all things [looking for the best in each one]..." If you love someone, you trust them. Love is not suspicious.
"...hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times]..." Not only does love bear all things and believe all things, but it also remains hopefully and unwavering when those tough times arise.
"...endures all things [without weakening]." And after having done all to stand, love still stands-- strong as ever. Not waning, not weakening, love endures all things.
So, ask yourself again, "Who do I love?" If you’re honest, you might be like me when I began to study this passage. My answer was, "No one." I wasn't loving properly, period. I didn't realize as a child dreaming of my future love that it would cost so much. I didn't know love was work. But I'm grateful for the understanding and the opportunity to do it right! When I realized that love without action is not love at all, I began to look for ways to love my friends, my family, my colleagues. I began to change my perspective on all my relationships.
I wonder how this revelation could impact your life. If you were to rise every morning and approach every encounter with this fresh perspective, I wonder what could change. I wonder how your relationships could be transformed. I wonder how this world could be impacted by real, true, perfect love.
You know what I think? I think we could change some environments. I think we could empower some men. I think we could encourage some women. I think we could inspire some children. I think we could love the hate out of some people. You want to know what I really think? I think we could change the world.
Let's make a deal... you and me. Let’s change the world. Let's start with love.