If you are related to me or you've read some of my previous posts on the issue, you already know I grew up in a family that didn't have a very good understanding of what love truly means. While I was taught that God is Love and my parents loved me no matter what, I didn't really get it. Love, for me, was a matter of usefulness. If I could do something for you, you would love me. Now, that might be anything from balancing your checkbook to making you feel special, but in the end, it all boiled down to my own efforts.
Sometime about college, I started to gather more information on the whole idea of God's grace. I mostly got it, I thought. God loves us because He made us. Even though I didn't do anything special for Him, He still thought I was pretty nifty because He'd created me. That seemed to make sense. Being the crafty sort myself, I could see liking something I made, just because. Yet, I couldn't help but think He'd love me more or better if I did more for Him.
Life went on, and I met Adam. I may not have shared this before, but he is the only boyfriend I've had. I never personally dealt with the whole concept of romantic love before, except in wholly one-sided, imaginary relationships. He told me he loved me just for me; I thought that was pretty cool. Still, especially after we got married, I could see that there was some benefit for him in having me around. And vice versa, of course.
It started to bother me, the fact that I couldn't quite identify what exactly love is. Not that it kept me up nights worrying, but periodically, in passing, I'd remember that I couldn't pinpoint real, true love, and I'd feel bad about that.
Earlier this year, Adam and I had to work through some really serious issues in our marriage. We needed to have a conversation that I hope never to have again, deciding whether or not we were willing to move forward in our relationship or if we would just walk away. Obviously, at the end of that discussion, we chose the former. It was a good choice.
I was thinking about our talk last night and sharing with Adam how glad I was we'd come to the conclusion that we are worth fighting for. Even as hard as some parts of the last few years have been, I told him, I would rather be working through the mess here with him than be somewhere else on my own, having avoided it altogether.
I've known for several years that I'm what's called a "verbal processor," which is just a fancy way of saying that I think about things best by talking them through. Frequently, I'm not particularly aware of my thoughts on a subject until ideas fall fully-formed out of my mouth.
Yesterday, for the first time, I realized I finally have a grasp on the whole love thing. It's not about how useful it might be to have you around. It's not whether or not I had anything to do with your being. And, contrary to what Erich Segal proposed, love certainly hasn't meant never having to saying I'm sorry.
Nope, stripped of flowery sentiment, I have discovered that love simply means I'd rather be mucking out the stable with you than riding in the rodeo without you.