Valentine’s Day. Our nation spends the gross national product of small nations on gifts, flowers, and candy in an effort to say in one day what we should have been saying all year long. For all of the songs and poems we’ve written about love, we really don’t understand much about love at all.
One of our misunderstandings about love that drives me nuts is this notion that we “fall in love”. You know how the myth goes. You’re at a party or talking to a friend when “they” walk into the room. He/she is everything you’ve always wanted in a mate. They’re good-looking, witty, intelligent, rich, and a fan of your favorite team. Emotions run high. We feel light-headed. Our heart pounds, and we feel all giddy inside.
This must be love, we say, and we tell everyone about the moment we “fell in love” with our spouse.
Have you ever thought about that statement? How do we just “fall” into the most important relationship of our lives? Comedians fall on purpose, but the rest of us try to avoid falling, especially as we age. Yet, according to the popular myths of love, we were “swept off of our feet,” “ambushed by Cupid,” – in other words, we didn’t have a choice.
If the Bible is clear about anything it’s clear about this – love is a choice. After all, how could Jesus command us to love our neighbor if love was something we couldn’t control. If He calls us to obedience in loving each other, we must have a choice.
In spite of the rush of emotion we all feel when we’re “falling in love,” the fact is we have to choose to love. We meet a new friend. According to Jesus’ teaching, we are obligated to love our new friend. That is, in obedience to Christ, we seek the best for our new friend. That requires action and that requires choice. Love that never moves us to action isn’t love at all.
This is why so many of our communities doubt the love of Christ in our local churches. They hear us preach about how we love our neighbors, but they rarely see the concrete action that true love requires.
Sadly, many in our culture don’t understand this basic reality of love. The songs we sing, the movies we see, and the novels we read always portray love as something that happens to us. Love is a passion we can’t control, and either we feel it or we don’t. The result is a love that is based entirely on emotion. Whether or not I’m in love depends on how I feel at the moment. Emotions are great. They give life its color and music its song, but they aren’t strong enough to hold life together.
Forty-one years ago, I said “yes” to Jeannie. I made a choice. I can still remember what she was wearing when I looked at her and said to myself, “This is a chance I’m going to take. She may not love me back, but I’m going to take this risk.”
I chose to love Jeannie, and gratefully, she chose to love me. For forty-one years, we’ve been choosing to love each other, and we make that choice every day. We don’t choose once and for all. Love has to be chosen every day. Love has to be expressed every day. Love must move us to action on the other’s behalf every day.
We don’t fall in love. We choose, and we have to keep choosing every day. Every time love requires action, we choose. And we have to keep on choosing. Love doesn’t stop when we “fall out of love”. Love stops when we stop choosing to express our love in action.
Love of neighbor? That’s our choice – and we do have to choose.
Love of family? That’s our choice – and we have to choose every day.
Love of spouse? That’s our choice, and every day, we’ll choose to do what love requires.
Forty-one years ago, I didn’t fall in love with Jeannie. I jumped. There wasn’t anything accidental about that moment. I made a decision and laid it all on the line.
Today, I chose again.
And today, you’ll choose again. Choose love. Choose to do what love requires. There’s nothing accidental about it. Love is always a choice.