|Disclaimer: I drew this heart in the sand, since I'm sentimental.|
I am still in awe about how much life stands behind those fourteen words. And I mean "life" rather literally. Why? Well, in one form or another, they have been dating for eight years! A really long time by almost anyone's standard. I've been around for at least seven of those years, and it even feels like a long time to me! (You know how time in your own life passes so quickly? Well, this did, but it still feels long.) I offer these pictures as proof of how we've aged.
I'm tempted to want a hard rule about how long people should or shouldn't date, but I realize that there is no easy rule. Everyone is so different, and everyone needs something slightly different.
More generally though, there is one rule: Love needs time. I've heard this idea expressed in many ways, but I've never encountered an explanation as beautiful, bright, and straight-forward as this one by Marvin J. Ashton. Some of my favorite parts follow, but you can also read the entire thing here.
"Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience. 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' and 'If ye love me feed my sheep' are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping. . . ."Continuing, keeping, and feeding. These words are more beautiful than any "I love you."
"Feeding is more than providing food. No man can effectively live by bread alone. Feeding is the providing by love adequate nourishment for the entire man, physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. Keeping is a process of care, consideration, and kindness appropriately blended with discipline, example, and concern. . . ."
Can you handle the meta?
"When were you last fed by a family member or friend? When were you last given nourishment for growth and ideas, plans, sorting of the day, sharing of fun, recreation, sorrow, anxiety, concern, and meditation? These ingredients can only be shared by someone who loves and cares. Have you ever gone to extend sympathy and comfort in moments of death and trial, only to come away fed by the faith and trust of the loving bereaved? Certainly the best way for us to show our love in keeping and feeding is by taking the time to prove it hour by hour and day by day. Our expressions of love and comfort are empty if our actions don’t match. God loves us to continue. Our neighbors and families love us if we will but follow through with sustaining support and self-sharing. True love is as eternal as life itself. Who is to say the joys of eternity are not wrapped up in continuous feeding, keeping, and caring? We need not weary in well-doing when we understand God’s purposes and his children.
"Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation. He prefers performance over lip service. We show our true love for him in proportion to our keeping his words and the processes of feeding."
Didn't catch the cultural reference in my title? Oh, fine. You can start your repentance at 1:13, but the whole thing is still worth your time.