What is LOVE? It is impossible to fully define conceptually. It defies finite description and supersedes all things. It is the first cause from which all human life and thought spring. Therefore, to place bounds on it would be like a statue placing limitations on its sculptor. Nevertheless, we can work toward an operational definition of LOVE. An operational definition is an incomplete set of characteristics which a thing has or does not have. For instance, a giraffe has a long neck and fur. It does not have wings or gills. This does not fully describe a giraffe, but we can use it to rule out impostors. The Apostle Paul formulated a well known operational definition of LOVE. He wrote that:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Imagine examining some conceptual object in order to determine whether or not it is LOVE. If it is impatient then we may conclude that it is not LOVE. If it keeps a record of wrongs, delights in evil, or does not trust, hope, or persevere, then it is not LOVE. We can never determine for certain that it is LOVE, but we may determine that it is not.
There is only one LOVE, but it manifests in many different forms. The love of a mother is pure and holy; it accepts unconditionally; it hopes and believes without fulfillment; it nurtures before seeing. It possesses every characteristic in Paul’s operational definition and more. A child is loved before even conceived. Now here’s the thing… If friends, husbands, wives, children, followers, or leaders do not “love” in the same fundamental way that a mother loves, then they do not love. Call it something else. Most “love” is not LOVE. It is narcissism, greed, lust, entertainment, or excitement, but it is not LOVE.
LOVE never fails. If someone stops loving someone else because that person hurt him or her, then it wasn’t LOVE in the first place. There was a selfish motive behind it. Unfortunately, disappointment is the rule. Van Gogh said, “The more you love, the more you suffer.” Why? Because LOVE never fails. It never gives up. It never rips a person out of its heart and turns a cold shoulder. It never stops caring no matter how scornfully it is treated. It always hopes even when there is no glow of warmth in the object of its affection. LOVE is almost always unrequited, but it endures anyway. We would totally expect a love to survive hardships, arguments, old age, and all of the ups-and-downs that lovers pass through, especially when the people involved choose not to be miserable cows. But what about the ineffable pain of utter silence? What does LOVE do then? It perseveres. It holds on when there is nothing but darkness to cling to. It tugs on the darkness until it pulls tiny strands into a rope which reaches into distant eternity. It hangs on with everlasting tenacity, not knowing whether or not there is anything at all on the other end. LOVE does not seek ends. LOVE lasts forever.
So if LOVE never fails, what ultimately becomes of it. Imagine a person loving through a lifetime, and learning to love liberally while experiencing all of the disappointment that goes along with it. LOVE requires effort, like an endless stream of energy flowing into the heart. Does LOVE accumulate like an ocean there, where it all mixes together and grows into one powerful mass? Or does it pile up like corpses in a sepulcher of broken dreams where nothing remains but the fond memories of vivid lives? I believe that LOVE is discrete, that it maintains the uniqueness of identities. LOVE is not a money changer; rather it binds souls to souls. Therefore, sometimes it feels like a sepulcher. Is that morbid? Not as morbid as killing a love. It may be a cold cave of bones, but not as cold as the heart of the person who refuses to love.
LOVE is not a pile of bones. Everything turns to dust, but LOVE lives forever. If LOVE truly preserves identity, then it carries us into eternity with it. Oh LOVE, carry me, carry me away.
Author of JACK