Sometimes, we come to know what something is by understanding what it is not. We learn of integrity, for example, by confronting dishonesty. We learn of courage as we encounter fear. And we can learn of love as we consider its counterfeits. Love is not overbearing or controlling; love is not jealous or unkind; love is not neglectful, impatient, or fickle.
As Shakespeare observed, "Love which alters when it alteration finds" is not love at all.
True love, selfless love, does not wither as beauty fades or life becomes difficult. If anything, its roots grow deeper and its branches spread farther with each shared experience. An elderly gentleman described how his love for his wife grew through their 55 years of marriage. He said, "I sat at dinner across the table from my wife the other evening. We have walked together through much of storm as well as sunshine. . . . As I looked at her across the table, I noted a few wrinkles in her face and hands. But are they less beautiful than before? No, in fact, they are more so. Those wrinkles have a beauty of their own, and inherent in their very presence is something that speaks reassuringly of strength and integrity and a love that runs more deeply and quietly than ever before."
This kind of love is the most enduring, the most influential, and the most needed power in the universe. Perhaps the only thing deeper than the need to receive such love is the need to give it.
Of course, like anything of great value, love does not blossom overnight. While we sometimes talk of "love at first sight," love grows to its full flower gradually. It will take time, but love is undaunted, because, as the Apostle Paul taught, love "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." When all is said and done, those who have patiently nurtured their love will enjoy the sweet fruits of their efforts, here and hereafter, and they will discover that love truly "never faileth."
Lloyd D. Newell