Giving and showing love are the most important things we can do in all relationships.
|Love is a Verb
By Marilyn Mackenzie
Love is an action verb, not a state of being verb. Love requires actions on our part. Too often we forget that, and think that just by saying the words “I love you” that we've fixed everything in our relationships. While many times we crave hearing those words from people who never say them – some fathers, for instance – the actions that show love are really more important.
Gary Smalley, in Love is a Decision, explains that “honor is the foundation for all relationships.” While we're supposed to honor God, we're also supposed to honor our spouse, our parents, our children, and our friends. When we honor people, we're telling them that they are valuable.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourselves.
When it appears that our jobs, our bowling teams, our friends, even our activities within the church, are more important than our loved ones, are we honoring them, valuing them? People thought I was insane when my 9-year-old son reminded me that my job was taking me away from him too much. He was right, and I quit. I valued him enough to recognize that he was far more important to me than any job.
Although men and women are quite capable of doing the same jobs out in the world, God did, indeed make us differently. In the Bible (Genesis 2:18) it tells us that God created woman to be a helper. The Hebrew word is actually “completer.” Women were designed to bring strengths to a marriage that the man, her spouse, does not naturally have himself.
One difference we've all encountered is the difference in how men and women speak. Sometimes, it’s as if we speak two different languages. In essence, we do. Men generally speak a language of the head, women a language of the heart. Men speak in details and measurements and in cause and effects. Women speak of feelings and thoughts. When you can each learn to acquire a bit of that other language as your own, it does endear you to your other half. When I listed for my honey the details of how I planned to accomplish a task, he was pleased. When he shared how a particular event at work made him feel, I rejoiced that we were truly communicating in a language I understood.
The differences in the sexes are truly made known in the midst of pain and trials. Often when a woman rants and raves about her day, her spouse’s mind is calculating solutions to each of her complaints. She doesn't necessarily want solutions. Instead, a woman can be comforted by a spouse who just holds her and pats her back while he listens.
Smalley says, “Kindness is communicating that someone is valuable through our actions.” And he points out that kindness and tenderness are important aspects of every marriage.
Tenderness, gentleness, and kindness are needed in a love relationship. When we most feel like lashing out, or telling our mate, “just handle it,” offering understanding instead is the key. But this is probably not our first instinctive reaction, and must be learned and practiced.
If your wife smashed the car into your carport, bringing it down around her and denting the car in the process, would your reactions be gentle ones? Yet, marriage that lasts a lifetime is what we all claim to want. Holding your wife as she cries about the catastrophe at hand shows tenderness and understanding. Carports are easily rebuilt and dents on a car can be fixed. Relationships, though, can be permanently marred by an unkind remark in such crisis. Which is truly more important?
A man I dated (and thought I would marry) had an abusive childhood, one that involved neckties. Because of that, he avoided jobs that required wearing a necktie all of his life. His brilliant mind, his wonderful personality, have been wasted in jobs like garbage collector because he could never envision himself in a job requiring a tie.
When the opportunity for an excellent job that required wearing a tie loomed before him, he balked. I could see that he wanted that job, that his mind was open to it. Still, the pain inflicted upon him as a child was something he had never overcome, in spite of his unfailing faith in God.
I could have reacted unkindly. I might have even questioned continuing a relationship, knowing that this childhood hurt had helped define and shape this man’s adult life and adult career adventures. But God had introduced us, love had quickly enveloped us, and I envisioned growing old with this man.
I prayed silently, quickly, asking God for wisdom. And then I kissed his neck. I encircled his neck with kisses, telling him how much I loved him and how much God loved him.
I offered kisses as a protection against the thoughts of childhood abuses. I asked him to think of me, of the tender kisses on his neck, of the protection I offered and that God offered him, as he dressed for his first day of work.
I reminded him that throughout the day, if he felt the necktie squeezing in on him, if childhood memories flooded his mind, that instead he should think of gentle kisses placed upon his neck.
It's been years since I've heard about or from this man, but I do know that he no longer fears wearing a tie.
Yes, men and women were made differently. Some of those differences can be learned and acquired and shared by each of us. I can learn to be a bit more logical and analytical in my thought process. A man can learn to be more thoughtful, more kind, to offer more feelings in a relationship. But in the long run, we should rejoice in the differences, to embrace them. God did, indeed, make us different so that in joining together we become more complete.
Love is a verb. It requires actions on our part – sometimes gentle and tender, sometimes understanding, and sometimes strong. But love and action do go hand in hand. Love isn't just something we say; it’s something we do – for God, for family, for friends, for neighbors, for the world.
In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus reminded us that loving God and loving our neighbor were the most important commandments of all. Giving love, acting out love, showing loving actions are the most important things we can do in all relationships.