I Want to Know What Love Is
by: Al Robertson
One of the most popular songs to hit the airwaves when Lisa and I were head-over-heels in love teenagers was a song titled “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. It was one of those 80s love ballads with lyrics as deep as … well, the words didn’t exactly stir up any deep existential thoughts, but we loved it. Shoot, I even had it on 8-track. You know what that is, right? Never mind, just Google it.
But the title actually does pose a very important question, and that is: What is love, really? Whether or not we get the answer to this query correct can have serious implications for our entire lives.
Most people, and almost all of popular culture, view love as a “feeling.” It’s that warm and fuzzy sensation we get when we meet our “soul mate.” It’s when biology sends its signal to our body’s cells that we have just met the perfect mate with whom we can spend a lifetime breeding and gazing longingly into one another’s eyes. It’s the mountain top experience that movies and music are seeking to capture.
There’s only one problem with this definition of love — it’s unsustainable. The reality of life is that when we meet the one who flips our tummies upside down, and when we make the commitment to lifelong fidelity, and when we get married, everything goes well for a while. But it isn’t long before life happens (not to be too cliché). The transmission in the car goes out, or the hubby gets laid off. Maybe you find out that the online vegan birth control counseling you paid $29.95 for didn’t live up to its hype. Then stress mounts. To make matters worse, your wife’s flat belly begins to expand out into the universe, and your husband’s also begins to take on new territory in sympathy … sort of like Manifest Destiny … Onward, HO!
Lest you think that this is as bad as it gets, you need to know that a houseful of babies can send normal people into an emotional orbit. Three o’clock a.m. feedings, the baby can’t be consoled, diarrhea oozing from the Pamper stretched too far by your chunky little baby’s fat legs.
And you’re telling me that the one question you just have to have the answer to at that moment is “I Want to Know What Love Is?”
Yeah, right! Gone are the mushy feelings! Gone is the tingling! All you’re thinking of at this point is whether or not you can catch a few winks in the back seat of your Hyundai Santa Fe before you have to head out to work in three hours.
Yep, life exposes the lie of popular culture that love is a just a feeling. Hardly anyone can keep that up. The expectations aren’t too high — they’re all wrong. They’re unachievable! Love, true love, biblical love is far deeper than that. It is not only sustainable, it’s life-changing. And there’s not a better example of what true love is than what we see when we see our Father in heaven.
I’m sure we’ve all read the definition of love in I Corinthians 13. I’m going to quote it, but this time, I am going to substitute the name of God for the word love. I’m doing this because the Bible tells us that “God is love.” The reason that it is important to understand what God’s love is like is that we can’t really love until we’ve been loved. When we comprehend how complete and perfect God’s love is for us, we are ready to love others.
Now, I have a question for you. Do you think that God feels all gushy inside about us when we are in rebellion against his authority? Do you think he’s ever angry with us? Do we ever fail to please him? The point to God’s love isn’t what he feels but what he’s decided to do with his imperfect and rebellious children. And what does he decide to do with us? He decides to love us — to act in a way toward us that shows he always has our welfare at heart. In fact, that’s the story of the Cross. Christ willingly surrendered his life so that we could receive what we needed most — cleansing from the guilt that prevented us from approaching the Father in the first place. I can now enter his throne room with confidence, not because I got my life on track, but because Christ paid for my guilt by his blood. It’s not about me at all — it’s about my Father who decided to love me and act on my behalf.
So back to you and the spouse. True love – sustainable and sustaining love? Oh, it’s more than possible — it’s a done deal when you fall down before God and plead for him to teach you to love as he loves. Yep, right in the midst of your three children simultaneously vomiting Little Caesars pizza all over the back seat of your new mini SUV … that’s when you love. You don’t love because you feel all warm and fuzzy inside (that’s the virus working on you too). You love because HE first loved US. And you decided once and then every day to love when it’s hard. You love when you decide to do what’s best for someone else.
You don’t want to get this wrong, else you’ll be singing another song popular around the time Lisa and I were dating … “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places.” Trust me when I tell you that that is a never-ending nightmare. You don’t want to be that girl or guy.
Love is more than a feeling. It transcends emotion. It’s there when everything seems to be falling apart. I know this kind of love won’t usher in a whole new genre of romance novels or Hallmark Christmas movies, but it will allow you to look back on your life and take joy in the fact that you loved as God loves. That’s enough for me.