So, I give you a totally gratuitous picture of our dogs; Valour on the left and Apollo on the right. Because with the heartache of the school killings and the court cases, I just can’t bring myself to chat about romantic love as though there’s nothing bad going on in the world.
If you’re a dog lover you know they give you unconditional love. They’re yours forever and all they ask is to be taken care of and be part of your life. And as pet owners we take on the responsibility of providing food, shelter, and comfort/care for them for life.
Humans are generally not well equipped in the “unconditional love” department. We’re not brought up to give that kind of love by our parents, teachers and society, and as people we usually fail at giving it.
In fact, I’ve been at a wedding where the vows were “as long as we both shall love…”, instead of “as long as we both shall live…”. Well, that’s a marriage doomed to failure! Because I think God designed us this way, but humans don’t usually get past the “unconditional love” test without a certain amount of grit, determination, and sheer perseverance and stubbornness.
We know in our heads that love is a feeling, and feelings come and go. Feelings can also be recreated given the proper motivation and desire. But the WILL to love and keep on doing the right thing even when you don’t feel like it, is where the heart of the matter falls. It’s our WILL to be loving, to keep loving someone who’s fallen sick, who’s being unloving, who’s grieving, who’s failed at work, who’s failed us, that is the true test of love.
Yes, most romance novels cover the romantic relationship of falling in love, and the “happily-ever-after” of the decision to start a life together and/or get married is at the end of the book. We read them by the score (and we also write them!) because we want to read about a couple overcoming adversity for the HOPE of being together through thick and thin. For the HOPE of happiness and a life together worth living. And in writing their stories we are reminded that perseverance, commitment, and yes, stubbornness are requirements for true love.
We CAN find the will to change, to love unconditionally, to persevere. We can bring HOPE to our communities, to our families, to our children. There is HOPE because God designed us to love ourselves and our neighbors. And He spelled out who our neighbor is just in case we couldn’t figure it out on our own = Everyone else.