There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I believed that love was an action verb. In my mind, the feeling wasn’t enough. Love had to be an act of kindness or a manifestation of compassion. It might have been Oprah that convinced me of this. I wrote about love as a verb and freely shared my enthusiastic conviction with anyone willing to listen. If I was lucky enough to have more than a couple people to preach to, I became like an evangelist at a tent revival. Standing on my soapbox behind my imaginary pulpit, I didn’t waiver when other opinions were shared. If I’m being totally honest, I might have occasionally fallen into that now annoying evangelical vocal cadence that is part of my southern country boy muscle memory.
When I think back on those days of evangelizing the “get-up-off-your-ass-and-love” ministry, I see it as cliché—a t-shirt slogan maybe—“LOVE IS A VERB”.
The more I understand myself and what love looks like to me, the more I see love everywhere. The writings of Marianne Williamson, Rob Bell, Brene Brown, and Mark Nepo (to name a few) awakened me to the necessity of expanding my gaze.
I’m learning to recognize myriad forms of love. I wait to see how love speaks to my OCD when my dark sofa is covered with white dog hair, how love responds to bad breath, or how love treats me when I have a flat tire on a cold, wet drive to work. Imagine if I were only looking for “love: the verb”—think how much love I would miss.
Sometimes love looks like a gangly teenage girl with supermodel potential. Sometimes love appears as your mom telling your math teacher that the reason your math skills are atrocious is because she was never good at math. And sometimes love is the math teacher who leans across the desk toward your mother and in a tone of exasperated frustration informs her that poor math skills are not hereditary.
Sometimes love is a feeling you get when you watch “Steel Magnolias”, “Terms of Endearment”, or “Transparent”. Love sits next to you as you read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Secret Life of Bees, or the Bible.
Love is in the atmosphere between your eyes and the eyes of your child, your friend, or the hospice nurse. Love baths in the warm air between you and your lover as you lie in the pre-dream twilight.
Love is that feeling you had—if you’re old enough to remember—when you saw 19-year old Kerri Strug land on one foot in the 1996 Olympics to score a 9.7 and guarantee a gold medal for the United States.
Love is the fingerprints on the wildflowers your 6-year old son picked for you because he knows that yellow is your favorite color.
Love is a severed ten-inch braid of auburn hair from an 18-year old boy—a boy who watched chemo steal his grandmother’s long, beautiful hair. Hair that she grew for a lifetime as a personal symbol of dedication to her religious belief.
Love is the heartbeat you hear when you lay your head on you dad’s chest. And love is the gentle stroke of his hand on your hair.
When angels bend near the earth to transport you home, love will be in the hands of your family as they interlock their fingers with yours and give you permission to let go this mortal form.
Sense all forms of love—see the unseeable love, touch the intangible love, and feel the gravity between each of us that is created by love.