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Love is a verb

In 2012, musician John Mayer released an album with the song “Love is a Verb.” Here are some of the words: “Love is a verb/It ain’t a thing/It’s not something you own,/It’s not something you scream. When you show me love/I don’t need your words/Yeah love ain’t a thing/Love is a verb/Love ain’t a thing.”

Our society today is hungry for a true expression of love. For those who read the Bible, my adaptation of this love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 you will find interesting. It is designed to help you see what should be important in our lives today. Note that this is not a translation of the passage, but my own illustrative reflection, creating contemporary meanings of the verses.

If I speak in tongues of nations and of angels, but have not a loving attitude, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have no love in my heart, I am nothing.

If I am a vegetarian, and do not eat dairy products to reduce my sinus problem, and cannot share lovingly with others, my diet is in vain. If I exercise five times a week at the gym or on R.M. Bailey track, and cannot share my energy in a loving way, my walking and running will be in vain. I can still die of a heart attack.

If I am financially independent and able to give to all church projects but have not love, my giving will be in vain. If I eat lots of broccoli soup to reduce the cancer risk, make my own gluten, or eat only boil fish for meat, and refuse to share in loving relationships, my life will be meaningless. I can still die prematurely.

Love never fails. College degrees, expensive houses, designer clothing, speaking in tongues, evangelistic crusades, and health seminars, will all pass away. Now these five remain – financial independence, a healthy lifestyle, faith, hope, and loving relationships. But the greatest of all of these is loving relationships.

Here is a true story that will truly illustrate that love is a verb. The story is written by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters.

A man was waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon. He had one of those life-changing experiences that you hear other people talk about – the kind that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. This one occurred merely two feet away from me. Straining to locate my friend among the passengers deplaning through the jet way, I noticed a man coming toward me carrying two light bags. He stopped right next to me to greet his family.

First, he motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other’s face, I heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” His son smiled somewhat shyly, averted his eyes and replied softly, “Me too, dad.”

Then, the man stood up, gazed into the eyes of his oldest son (maybe nine or 10) and while cupping his son’s face in his hands said, “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach.” They, too, hugged a most loving, tender hug.

While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps a one or one-and-a-half year old) was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father. The man said, “Hi, baby girl,” as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.

After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last,” and proceeded to give his wife the longest, most passionate kiss I ever remember seeing. He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then silently mouthed, “I love you so much.” They stared into each other’s eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands. For an instant, they reminded me of newlyweds, but I knew by the age of their kids that they couldn’t possibly be. I puzzled about it for a moment then realized how totally engrossed I was in the wonderful display of unconditional love not more than an arm’s length away from me.

I suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if I was invading something sacred, but was amazed to hear my own voice nervously ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?”

“Been married 12 years,” he replied, without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife’s face.

“Well then, how long have you been away?” I asked. The man finally turned and looked at me, still beaming his joyous smile. “Two whole days!”

Two days? I was stunned. By the intensity of the greeting, I had assumed he’d been gone for at least several weeks – if not months. I know my expression betrayed me. I said almost offhandedly, hoping to end my intrusion with some semblance of grace (and to get back to searching for my friend), “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after 12 years.”

The man suddenly stopped smiling. He looked me straight in the eye, and with forcefulness that burned right into my soul, he told me something that left me a different person. He told me, “Don’t hope friend. Decide.”

Then, he flashed me his wonderful smile again, shook my hand and said, “God bless.” With that, he and his family turned and strode away together.

Dear reader, have you decided to passionately love your spouse, children and friends? Remember, love is a verb. It is an action word. You can decide to love. Nothing is more important in today’s society than loving relationships.

• Barrington Brennen is a counseling psychologist and marriage and family therapist. Send your questions to question@soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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