“He tells me he loves me….I don’t know. I am so confused. When he hurts me and belittles me, I just go to bed and cry myself to sleep. He tells me he loves me but…..I’m not sure he knows what love is, at least the kind I want.”
As a relationship counselor I hear a lot of people’s stories. Most heart breaking are stories of husbands and wives whose marriages are crumbling and toxic. Both or one of them, come into my office, bleeding and infected and can’t think straight.
The question I hear most is “what is true love?”
This is a complex question. I wish there was simple and easy way to define love to people in a way that they understand. Sadly, the individuals I meet with have been deceived as to what love is or they have been lied to about love or they grew up seeing a distorted picture of love.
The bible gives us a beautiful example of what love is from the first page to the last page, and in between are notes on the intricacies of what love looks like and how to receive pure love.
First, I need to say that the source of pure, perfect love is God. He is love and exudes flawless love all the time. If we deeply want to know what love is, I believe, we must find those answers wrapped up in the essence of who God is and who He is not.
The love that is displayed within the pages of scripture depict a special kind of love called agape love, which is covenant. Covenant is the basis or foundation of who God is and the love He possesses.
Covenant love is sacrificial, set apart, pure and endless. It never stops, it is never rude, toxic or conditional. It never pretends, it never deceives and is always authentic and tangible. This love gives, gives some more and will never demand its own way. This love thrives in freedom and choice and brings healing to those it comes in contact with. This love whispers, nurtures and never goes to sleep. It is fully alive and will watch over you to protect and keep you safe.
When we discover and know what real, true love is, we are not able to be fooled or blinded by a counterfeit. The love that the world offers is mostly sensual, conditional and contractual. Meaning, as long as you keep up your end of the deal and fulfill my expectations, then I will keep my end of the deal. This is dangerous because as soon as one party doesn’t live up to the expectations or assumptions of their partner, then we believe we have a right to terminate the relationship.
In a marriage relationship, most couples have no greater desire than a lifetime of love and commitment to their spouse. Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Although love is at the heart of marriage, it is not enough. The marriage relationship needs other ingredients to grow and thrive. These ingredients are freedom and responsibility. When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When we are not free, we live in fear and love is damaged. Boundaries in marriage is fundamentally about love. It is about growing it, developing it and repairing it. To walk in love with another person is an act of your will – we choose to love. Mistakenly, people believe that love is an emotion and therefore, can change and fluctuate from day to day. Our culture most commonly thinks about love in the context of romance. But true, agape love is much more than that.
Agape love can only be shared with someone to the extent which we have received it for ourselves. In order to receive agape love, we need to posture ourselves before God and receive directly from Him – a download of His beautiful, selfless love. Then, we can go and give it away to others!
“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts.” John 15:9 TPT
Lisa is a certified Christian counselor with the NCCA and Director of Power of His Love Ministries. She has been married to her amazing husband Bill since 1989. They live in the greater Houston area and have 3 grown daughters and one son-in-love!