Monday, October 14, 2013

What Is Love?

These past few months, I've been hanging around with a bunch of new friends I've made this year. And it's funny but, our topic of conversation seems to keep going around the topic of love. What really is love, anyway?

The Bible talks of love as a command. Love your God above all else, and love the people around you as you love yourself. Love, it is said, never fails. But at the same time, the Good Book speaks of the heart as a deceitful thing. How can love never fail when the heart is deceitful?

If we turn to look at how the world sees love, well, we're enamoured by the idea of love. The fact that the Romance novel industry is so big and is still growing says something about the hearts and longings of people. But if you look at statistics, divorce and separation are also growing. In the Philippines in the past decade, separation and annulment have grown by 40%. 40%! My supposedly conservative country! And that's not counting the ones who are not in the statistics. Among our staff and helpers, more than half have been left or have left their 'spouses' for other people. (They consider their partners spouses but they're not really married. That's why they're not in the statistics. But legal or not, there are broken families and broken hearts involved nonetheless).

Most of us have grown up watching Disney Princesses. And most of us grow up with the idea that we'd someday find our prince and live happily ever after. But we all know that's not how it works. Even the ones in successful marriages would tell you they all had to pick up their swords in one way or another, and fight to preserve the union. On the other hand, you hear a lot of people say, when asked why the relationship didn't last, that they were just not in love anymore. That they've fallen out of love. And here, I think, is where a big part of the definition of love varies.

The Bible talks of love as a command, a verb, a thing to do. The world sees love as a feeling, an adjective, a state to be in. The former seems so unromantic, and the latter seems so fickle. How do you marry these two concepts anyway? At the back of our minds, we all seem to believe that love conquers all. But how come it doesn't?

Alright, since inherently, a part of us says love is eternal and unfailing, I will for the moment assume the Bible's definition of love to be true. That love never fails. And that it is a command, an action word, a thing to do. But if I were to take that as true, then I also have to take as true the part where it says the heart is deceitful. Shifting our attention to what we know about hearts, there is truth to that statement because we all know the feelings come and go. We all wish it won't. We all wish the feeling of being in love will stay with us 'til the day we die. And that is what we want to believe on our wedding day. And so our wedding day becomes the happiest day of our married life (ie. the feeling diminishes, we are disappointed, and we become less and less happy as the years go by).

But if we are to be honest with ourselves, we have to admit that the feelings come and go. There will be seasons when we're very much infatuated. There will be seasons when we can't stand our spouses. There will be seasons when emotions are high. There will be seasons when emotions are at a normal level. Such is life. We know that when we deal with our siblings and parents. Why should it be different when it comes to romantic partners? But if the good feelings come and go, we should also know that the bad feelings do so, too.

What if the thing we feel is not love and really just attraction. Infatuation. Fondness. What if love really was patient and kind. And that thing that makes us want to urgently see someone, and make us feel entitled to demand that they give us attention is not love, but a feeling, a drive to feel special. What if love really protects, and that urge to get into bed to express how much she means to you is not love, but merely the urge to get into bed.

I'm not saying wanting to feel special or wanting to get into bed are evil. I'm not saying it is bad to feel. I want to feel. I want the feeling to last forever as mush as any girl out there. What I'm just saying is, maybe we're not calling them as they are. They call themselves love but in truth, they are not love, but feelings. I am not belittling them. I am merely classifying them differently. What if we look at these feelings knowing and acknowledging their nature: they come and go. Like the tide, they ebb and flow. They come, they pull back, but after a time, they come back again. And we look at them and know that they are feelings. We enjoy them when they're there, we anticipate their return when they leave. 

And what if love doesn't rest on those waves? What if love is that one that stands with you on the beach, watching the tides ebb and flow, knowing to enjoy the feelings while they're there, and standing assured that they will return in their absence. What if it's not really about the man who makes you feel things, but rather the man who knows the nature of these feelings, and who would stand with you with or without the tides. And even better, maybe it's about a man who would take your hand and run towards the waves with you if you get a little impatient. :P