One of the most difficult - and most valuable - lessons I learned in my adult life is that love is an action verb. During one of the times I was not feeling much love for my late husband, I read in a Bible study that love is not a feeling, it is an action. That the times when "that loving feeling" is not present are the times that it is most important to behave in a way that shows love. That seems counter-intuitive to our modern society which prescribes that if the feeling of love has gone, or if your spouse is not making you completely and totally happy, or if your life together is not easy, you should cut your losses and end your union. I once subscribed to that way of thinking and ended my first marriage without much thought to the commitment I had made. I was determined not to give up so easily the second time. So I was willing to try the idea that I should act as if I loved my husband in spite of how difficult it had become and see what happened. I won't go into the details here, but suffice it to say that when I acted as if I loved him the feeling of love returned, stronger than ever. That feeling of love brought on by my actions of love enabled me to live out my commitment to him through some very difficult circumstances. That feeling of love now allows me to look back on the last months of our marriage with the knowledge that, at least in the end, I lived up to my vows of "for better or worse, in sickness and in health."
This week I have seen the idea that love is an action verb come to life again. My sister's husband has been very ill for a while. Through his illness, my sister has devoted herself to caring for him completely. She has fought his battles, endured unpleasant situations, and ministered to his needs unselfishly. His wish was to see the end of his life at home rather than in a hospital. She made that possible for him. In the last few days I have had the privilege of seeing my matter-of-fact, no-nonsense sister caring for her dying husband in ways that she would never have dreamed she would have to do, and doing it with love and tenderness. Her love for him was spoken more clearly in her actions than it could ever be in any words. She has demonstrated her commitment to him and their 33-year marriage by her tender, ferocious care of him even in these worst of times. Throughout their life together, and especially at the end, she lived up to her vows of "for better or worse, in sickness and in health".
That is what love is - not a feeling, but a commitment to action.