So often growing up, I learned that love is more than just a feeling. Whether it was in a children’s church message, the tunes of DC Talk blaring throughout my home that “love is a verb”, or Michael W. Smith reminding me that, “love isn’t love till you give it away” . . . it was ingrained in me. Someone, please . . . admit that you can relate!
I was reading this reflection by Henri Nouwen (below) this week. It was so beautifully written, and very simple. Henri focuses on actions, but it preserves the reality of emotions. If we didn’t have emotion, we would not feel the need to act. Actually, we would not be human. Action and emotion go hand in hand.
Saturday June 16, 2012
“Often we speak about love as if it is a feeling. But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love well. The feeling of love is beautiful and life-giving, but our loving cannot be based in that feeling. To love is to think, speak, and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible in this world.
Mostly we know what the loving thing to do is. When we ‘do’ love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.”
When you read this reflection, there are many things you can think of: doing love by serving the needy, doing love by caring about social justice issues, doing love by interacting with friends or someone in your church. But, when I read this, I reflected on its core principle in the light of conflicts in relationships. What made me think of this was the line that said, “Mostly we know what the loving thing to do is. When we “do” love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.” It made me think of the times when I didn’t feel like doing love (acting) toward a co-worker, a friend, my husband. But when I did it anyway, my heart changed. When I didn’t do it, my heart wouldn’t change . . . I would stay annoyed and cranky . . . and, well, selfish.
Sometimes I hear my friends say, “I’m trying to not take it personal” when they are hurt or in the midst of a conflict. I’m not suggesting that we should be uber-sensitive, but when you’re dealing with people . . . it is personal. But sometimes our emotions overwhelm us and we don’t know how to speak (action) without being emotional. And sometimes we don’t know how to handle our emotions, so we act out negatively (exploding, saying things we don’t mean, etc).
We don’t have to sacrifice our “emotions” in order to feel that we are being rational. And we don’t have to sacrifice being rational in order to express our emotions. In doing so, you are admitting that your emotions are not rational. We must learn to not let our desire to be rational nor our emotions to rule us or become our idol. We need to take these two beautiful gifts that the Lord has given us, and learn how to use them as God intended.
When we are able to use these two gifts (doing and feeling) to love our friends, spouses, co-workers, etc. . . . we seek to love, and love brings peace and restoration. We might not feel like facing a difficult conflict, but as Henri says, “When we ‘do’ love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.” I genuinely believe this to be true. As Jesus took our sins upon himself on the cross, I am glad he didn’t wait until he felt like doing it. He did it in obedience that was fueled by His love toward us. That said, let us do love, even if we don’t feel it yet.
This is a topic that has many facets . . . I would love to hear your thoughts!