I love chocolate ice cream. I love the Kansas City Chiefs. I love my wife. All of those statements are true, but the meaning varies wildly. While I do enjoy chocolate ice cream very much, it does not hold the same place in my heart as my aﬀection for my wife.
words + photographs JOSHUA MANNING
Our language does not define love well. Love, true love, is the most beautiful aspect of humanity. It is exhibited by our Creator in His mercy for us. It is unfortunate we use the same word for both things so temporal and things so eternal. I believe it would be more appropriate to use the word “love” in the same fashion our Creator has used it.
This is a conversation my family has been grappling with because there is a new object of our aﬀection. My son, Luke, has met a young lady. She is beautiful and sweet, with a strong character. She is mature and has a strong faith in Christ. My son is absolutely smitten by her. Lately, the love word has been used on multiple occasions.
Luke and I have talked a lot about this new part of life. He has never dated before, and I have never had a son old enough to date. We are both terrified with good reason. I knew I had to crank out a really good dad-speech. I needed to say the kind of speech you would hear Danny Tanner say at the end of every “Full House” episode. You know the one: It has soft music and inspirational words. I did my best, minus the soft music, but I feel it fell flat. Once I finally shut up and let Luke talk, the discussion went a lot better. Here is how we define love.
Love is a pledge you will devote yourself to someone or something, no matter what the cost.
Love is a commitment. It is the thing you hold onto when you have let go of everything else. With love will come happy emotions and soaring feelings, but those rise and fall like the waves in the ocean. Even when those feelings seem as far away as can be imagined, love still remains. Love is a pledge you will devote yourself to someone or something, no matter what the cost.
Before I married her daughter 20 years ago, my mother-in-law pulled me aside. She said love should never be a 50-50 arrangement. Those marriages end in divorce because there is the expectation that love is given only when it is received. Love is a total giving of yourself to the other. This kind of love was exhibited when my father-in-law became a caretaker to his beloved wife as illness ravaged her frail body for a decade. He modeled this kind of love as he endlessly drove her to doctors, and cared for her in the most minute of ways. This love was exhibited when the ache of her absence was palpable during the meal at Christmas. During those times, the soaring emotions might have be in short supply, but love remained.
This is the love exhibited by Christ. Though He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6), He loved His father (and us) by humbling himself. This humbling even resulted in His death on the cross. The extraordinary way He exhibited love is a model for us. When we love others, we hold their desires above our own. As my mother-in-law said, love is not 50-50. It is 100-100.
I don’t know the future. Maybe the beautiful girl my son talks about endlessly will be his wife one day. To be honest, I hope so. Whatever happens though, I pray this young love is a representation of the love my father-in-law has shown to his wife, a love I know is a reflection of the love my Lord has shown for us. JM
Joshua Manning is a husband, father, pastor of Community Baptist Church, host of Proclaiming Noel, Soli Deo Gloria.
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