Several months ago I was asked to give a talk in church on love. It was a topic I had and continue to think about because it is so important in this life. Here is my resulting talk. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave your thoughts, although I do appreciate respectful comments pro or con. Many thanks for reading.
What do sunrises, kissing, the laughter of children, holding hands, ice cream, and the Red Sox all have in common? People say that they love seeing, doing, hearing, feeling, eating and watching them! The word LOVE in the English language can mean so many things. We describe our feelings for our parents, our jobs, a boyfriend or girlfriend and a sports team with the same word – but does it mean the same thing? (for Red Sox fans…. It just might…..)?
I want to touch on several aspects of LOVE: romantic love, love of neighbor, and love of God.
I’ll talk about romantic love first because it’s tricky and conditional. Romantic love is an A-mazing feeling, right?! Who doesn’t love the tingling stomach, the weak in the knees feeling for that gorgeous someone!? It’s essential in marriage and important in dating – important to recognize that you feel it for someone. However – and this is a BIG however – it shouldn’t be fully employed until marriage. Period. Try building a house with only nails – literally nails. And only nails. It would be one ugly and useless house. That would be like trying to build a relationship out of romantic love alone. It won’t last and it’s not useful or fulfilling in the long run. Don’t get me wrong – to make a marriage work you need mutual romantic love – but you must have more.
The more is what I want to cover in the rest of my talk. The more are the other parts of love – love of neighbor and love of God. In the Old testament the Lord instructed the Israelites to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) and “love the lord thy God with all they heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5). He reiterated their importance when he fulfilled the Mosaic law but still held those two teachings as the most important commandments of all.
Loving our neighbor and loving God is what makes up most of our waking hours. Every interaction we have – including with ourselves - is done with some form of love or non-love. There is no neutral in this. “Karen,” you may say “that is ridiculous. How do I show love with strangers or irritating co-workers, or even myself.” Here is how: every waking moment we choose. We choose how and why to act, speak or think a certain way. Will we do it from a basis of love or from some other motive? According to Heavenly Father love should be the basis of our actions towards everyone. Think of that, will you. How would our lives change if everything we did was based on demonstrating sincere love for another and for God. Not fear of failure, not self-interest, not fatigue, not retribution, not disinterest but real love for someone else.
Sometimes I think we are afraid to say “I love you”. Why? What is wrong with telling someone you want them to be happy. Isn’t that what love is – a way of saying to someone “I want you to be happy and I will do what I am able to do to help you be happy”. Perhaps a way to make that phrase more palatable is to recognize the other names we give to love: friendship, service, charity, kindness, joy, patience, hope, endurance, stillness, beauty, effort, sacrifice, and many others.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton in his October 1975 General Conference talk entitled “Love Takes Time” shared this about love of neighbor and of God, “We must at regular and appropriate intervals speak and reassure others of our love and the long time it takes to prove it by our actions. Real love does take time. The Great Shepherd had the same thoughts in mind when he taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; italics added) and “If ye love me feed my sheep” (John 21:16; italics added). Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “If ye love me feed my sheep” are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping.
“Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation. He prefers performance over lip service. We show our true love for him in proportion to our keeping his words and the processes of feeding.”
Several weeks ago when I began preparing for this talk I made a list of things that in my mind illustrate love either from God or from people to each other. Here they are:
· Love is the sweet peace that comes when you have repented and you feel that God has forgiven you.
· Love is a gentle kiss.
· It is laughter before bedtime.
· Love is tickling a baby to see her smile or hear him giggle.
· It is a sunrise.
· It is a smile between two friends.
· Love is forgiveness to one who has hurt or offended you.
· It is looking for reasons to talk, text or call someone.
· Love is seeking ways to make another happy.
· Love is friends.
· It is caring more about another’s feelings and needs than your own.
· It is recognizing that the more you give of it – the more you receive in return.
· Love does not put self-interest first.
· Love is sunshine.
· Love is a choice that must be made daily, hourly, and sometimes in every moment.
· It is like faith in that it must be nourished or it will dwindle and die.
· Love is strong – when cultivated and strengthened it will never break.
· Love and faith are the building blocks of God, true religion and believers – without both God could not be.
· Love is why we believe in Christ.
· It is why the earth is beautiful.
· Love is a commandment.
· Love is why we are on the earth.
· It is why we have the Atonement.
· Love is the greatest treasure.
· Love is sweeter than sugar, softer than down, and stronger than any building material.
· It is as necessary for growth and progression as oxygen is for life.
· Love is not terrifying – the thought of losing it is what terrifies and stops us from seeking and giving love to others.
· Love can be painful but pain helps us know we love.
· Love will not fade with time – it grows stronger, deeper, richer, sweeter and better with time and effort.
· It is working to communicate every day.
· Love is not giving up.
· Love is not effortless.
· Love is not easy.
· Love comes in levels.
· Love is commitment.
In closing, I’d like to tell you from my personal experience of being divorced to not let fear of rejection or divorce stop you from trying, getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again. Divorce does not mean you are a failure. Nor does breaking up. The true failure comes in giving up or not trying in the first place.