Valentine’s Day lurking right around the corner has me thinking of what the idea of love means to me. “Love” is a very important word to me—it’s actually one of my three core values, centered around John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave…”. This verse shapes my purpose, my mission in life. I give myself to the causes I believe in because of love.
I have to be honest, the notion of love has changed for me over the years. It looks way different than it did in my childhood innocence. My mother and father became separated when I was young, so my earliest impressions of love came from being predominantly raised by my mom. You see, I can count on one hand the number of times my mother ever told me she loved me. Conversely, my father said it to me all the time, especially each time we left each other's presence.
But here’s the caveat. My mom’s actions outweighed my father’s words.
Although I would have liked to hear my mom tell me she loved me more often, I never had to question her love for me. Her actions proved it by doing things like working the night shift to make sure we had food, being present at 95% of my basketball games, and staying with me all day and night for weeks at a time while I was hospitalized and bed-ridden with a rare, life-threatening medical condition. My dad passed a few years prior to my hospitalization, so I'm certainly not able to hold it against him for not visiting me there. However I barely recall him attending any of the hundreds of basketball games I played during my earlier childhood, even during the years when we were both healthy.
So as you might imagine, my upbringing helped me develop a calloused view of the word love itself. I had the mindset that love is an action word, so don't say it if you don't show it. This became problematic later in romantic relationships, when my significant others would scream the word from the mountaintops but never match it with appropriate action. It was easier for me to believe in the Easter bunny than to trust their words.
It wasn’t until I started dating my now husband that I began to feel differently. As our relationship graduated to the point that I started having deeper feelings for John, I finally felt like the "l" word was appropriate for me to say. He truly had become the love of my life. But because of my baggage, I still found it difficult to tell him with words, so instead I tried to show him with actions. It was like ducking the dentist for a root canal. Eventually, I bit the bullet and decided to come clean with the three words I dreaded to share, “I love you.” I was totally uncomfortable because I had never been in a relationship before where I was in the position to say it first.
It was an awkward moment but I got through it.
Once we eventually brought a child into the world, I made a concerted effort to express my love for our son both verbally and by actions. It’s very important to me that my son knows and feels that he is loved. I tell him I love him often and my words are accompanied by action. I do the same with my husband. I don’t want there to be any confusion. Because there shouldn't be any. Love changes behavior. It causes you to give. It stretches you. It makes you want to do better. It puts others before yourself.
That’s what love is to me. And although my husband and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s a great time to remember one thing: love takes action.
So what does love mean to you?