Perhaps no other topic has been pondered throughout history more than that of love. There are countless songs sung. Wars are fought. Poems are inspired. Lives are lost to the shattered heart of love forgotten. Through mankind’s existence, there have been endless studies of what love is and what it does to the mind, body, and spirit; however, even the most well-read student of love can be confounded and amazed at the tender affection that love can usher in. Aside from the evasive understanding of love in general, there is the added complexity of different forms of love. Shakespeare portrays an idealistic love at first sight which ends in tragedy. The Greeks named four different types of love, and even this may be too limiting. My understanding of love began when I was quite young and continues to evolve at every step of life.
Long before I thought about the Romeo and Juliet sort of love, I felt an affection for my mother. When I scraped my knee, Mom was there with a bandaid and a kiss. When I brought home an A, Mom was there with a celebration and a hug. When I was picked on by the kid down the street, Mom was there with an encouraging word and another of her endless hugs. I was in sixth grade when I came home with my sister and learned that my parents were getting a divorce. They wanted my sister and me to decide who we were going to live with. My sister quickly decided to live with our mother, and I sat there, pained by the picture of my father sitting alone in a dark apartment. I couldn’t allow that to happen, so I chose to live with him. The veritable saint of a woman who had always comforted me was no longer going to be there each day when I came home. The love for my father and the love for my mother had always been one and the same, but now it was being ripped in two. The love I had for my mother made the decision immensely painful, but the love I had for my father pulled me from her home.
It was a short time later when I was processing the entire situation that I realized that I had sacrificed for my father. I did not think of it as a sacrifice when I made the decision, but it was the love that I felt for both of my parents that made my concern for their well being override the choice that I may have wanted for myself. I was feeling a reciprocal love for the sacrifices that I knew that they made for me. And at the same time, I was finding that love does not always conquer all. Though the love they had for me was strong, the love between them had ended.
As all of our experiences do, this one may have colored my immature relationships when I began dating. I thought little of “love” until I met a girl who made me feel different. She made me feel important and more powerful than I had been. With her vote of confidence, I was sure that I could face anything that the world could throw at me. After a football game during my senior year of high school, a group of our friends ended up at a park. I cornered her off by ourselves and said those three words. Her response of “I love you, too,” rang out to me with renewed faith in my concept of love. The feelings I felt for this beautiful person helped me forget that love can end. I never wanted to be without her. Everything was not perfect. We argued and made mistakes and made up and broke up and hurt each other and forgave each other and married one another. We married one another because, through all of those trials, we loved each other. It was not a fleeting thing. And when I said “I do”, my love grew. I no longer only loved my girlfriend; I loved the woman that would be my partner in everything. She strengthened my weaknesses, and we made each other a more important priority than ourselves.
A few years later, we were in a hospital room, and after an agonizing display of courage and strength, my wife gave birth to our first child. After the nurses cleaned him off, I held the perfect screaming boy in my arms and carried him to his mother. I was overcome by the confluence of all of the facets of love. I looked at the face of my bride, and my love grew. I had a playful passion for the girl to whom I first told “I love you.” I possessed a burning gratitude and intimacy for the wife I faced life with, and now my love incorporated an admiration and respect for the mother of my child. I looked down at my son and felt the awesome responsibility that God had placed in us. I felt fear and unworthiness, but above it all, I felt love for this tiny person that I did not know. When my parents finally came into the room to see their grandson, I threw my arms around my mother’s neck, and confided, “I never knew how much you loved me.” Experiencing the love for my son and our two subsequent children helped me understand the love that my parents felt for me, and this understanding grew my love for them in return.
Like most emotions, love can feed off of itself. As we love someone, it is easier to love another. As we feel love from someone, it is easier to love another. I write about my concept of love because that is all that I can know. The way I have loved and have been loved shapes my personal nature of love. While we will never know exactly how someone else views love, we can see the perfect example that Christ showed us. Selflessness and charity are the best ways to show and grow love. Christ showed his love through earthly deed and ultimate sacrifice. I learned of love through thinking of my parents rather than myself. They let me feel their love through caring and rearing. The amount of love we feel for our children can be attributed to the amount of responsibility we have for them. My love for my wife grew out of her putting me first, and me putting her first. It is Christ rather than Shakespeare who can teach us of love.
by Jared Kitch