My friend and I sat across the table chatting over lunch. With February being the “month of love” we began to discuss our plans (or lack of plans at that point) for Valentine’s Day weekend. Eventually we moved into sharing some marriage lessons we’ve learned throughout our combined 45 years of marriage.
Without thinking much of it I shared that I’ve learned that love has to mature for a marriage to go the distance. And then I followed that with, “I guess love has to move from being a noun to being a verb.”
We both paused and considered the implications of what I had spoken. My friend said it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever said. While I’m quite sure it’s most likely the only profound thing I’ve ever said, I’ve definitely not been able to get the concept out of my head.
Immature love is a noun. A thing we long for. A feeling. An expectation of what someone will do for us.
Mature love is verb. An action we take. A decision. A choice to do something for someone else.
Unfortunately too many of us have yet to mature in our love and our relationships bear the scars of that fact. But it’s never too late to grow up. And if we want our love to last a lifetime, we can’t afford to keep believing that love is a noun. The feeling of love is short-lived. We have to transition to understand that long-lasting love is really a verb.
But what does this English lesson of nouns and verbs have to do with real relationships? How do we take this concept and apply it to real life? Maybe these scenarios can help paint the picture.
Love as a noun spent all last week wondering what your spouse was going to do for you for Valentine’s Day. Love as a verb spent all last week preparing your expression of love for your spouse.
Love as a noun feels despair when you no longer feel “in love” with the person you are married to. Love as a verb understands the ebb and flow of feelings. It focuses more on expressing love than feeling love.
Love as a noun demands its own way. Love as a verb works to understand differences and is open to new ways of doing things.
Love as a noun finds faults in others. Love as a verb gives grace and forgiveness.
Love as a noun expects others to serve them. Love as a verb serves freely.
Love as a noun expects to always feel warm and fuzzy and “in love.” Love as a verb realizes that often we have to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it.
The most frequently quoted Bible verse at weddings is I Corinthians 13, which is often referred to as the “love chapter.” It says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized that every time love is mentioned in this often quoted verse, it is a verb. Maybe this concept has been right in front of my eyes all along, but I just didn’t understand it until recently.
The most interesting thing, however, is a less often quoted part of the verse that says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
So love has to grow up. It has to mature. Who knew grammar could reveal so much about love?
Copyright © 2009 by Jill Savage. Jill (www.jillsavage.org) is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org), an organization designed to encourage, educate, and equip women in the profession of motherhood. Jill and her husband Mark have 5 children and make their home in Normal, Illinois.