Love is the greatest thing, sings Peter Skellern.
The oldest, yet the latest thing.
I only hope that fate may bring,
Love’s story to you.
And St Paul says something similar in his letter to the church in Corinth: ‘And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’
There’s something about love we keep coming back to, we feel it matters, though no one knows what it means. Or rather, people imagine they do, which is fine; but others may mean something different.
There’s no simple dictionary definition. And I wonder what you’d say if asked to define it in a few words.
One dictionary has it as ‘an intense feel of deep affection’ which I think is pretty poor. I could be looking at another human, but I could also be pondering my car or my country of birth.
Can the same word cover all these activities?
And does love have to be intense? Can’t it be more everyday than that – almost routine?
Anyone who has experienced couples counselling will know the five languages of love; five different ways to express love in a relationship.
1) Spending quality time together
2) Physical displays of affection and intimacy
3) Words of affirmation
4) Acts of service
5) Receiving/giving of gifts
These can create helpful conversations between partners. They are often speaking different languages.
But if love is just for couples it has become a very small word. My sense, and probably yours, is that it’s rather bigger than that.
When I was eleven I fractured my femur and had a bleak time in hospital with my leg in traction for six weeks.
But one night, on the small black and white TV in the ward, I heard, (I only discovered his name later) Jim Reeves singing ‘I love you because’.
The final two lines are:
I love you for a hundred thousand reasons
But most of all I love you ‘cause you’re you.
Nothing complicated; almost trite, you might say. But it was something Little Simon needed to hear, it hadn’t been a cradle song he’d heard; not a message in his early years. Now for the first time in his life, he sensed (what he would later call) ‘love’ in the world.
It was an epiphany. And if pushed as to what that meant, he sensed a holding.
You will come to your own conclusions about what the word means for you and your life. My favourite definition of love is ‘the accurate estimate of need.’
Isn’t it great when someone knows what you need and acts on it – whether at home, work or in the playground?