When you say, “I love you,” what do you really mean? Do you mean a feeling that bubbles up from inside and spreads throughout your body making you feel warm and tingly at the same time?

It’s interesting the terminology we use for love. Have you ever “fallen in love?” What does that mean?

Falling in Love

I have this uncanny ability. I can walk across a flat parking lot with no potholes or obstacles in the way and fall down. OK, I know what you’re thinking, that’s because she’s over 55.

No, the particular incident that looms large in my mind is when I was a teenager walking across the parking lot to go into the Biscayne Mall. That mall has since been leveled and a new mall built.  Needless to say, that was more than 40 years ago. I still have this unique ability today.

Is falling in love like that? One minute you are walking along chatting with your friends and the next you are flat on your face saying, “I’m in love with that guy I just saw?”

Love at first sight

Call me corny, but I do believe in love at first sight. I fell in love with my husband the first time I met him. I had gone to a Christian coffee house where I didn’t know a soul. It was early. No one was inside. I felt utterly alone. I stood self-consciously looking around wondering what to do. He walked out and greeted me pleasantly.

I loved his smile, his large hands as they warmly shook mine, the big wooden cross around his neck and his David McCallum-style hair. If you don’t know who that is, google him but look at the pictures of 40 years ago, not of today.

The feeling of love started that day. You know what I’m talking about, the feeling you want to be with him every second. The electric sparks that go off when he takes your hand or puts his arm around you. The fireworks that ignite when he kisses you.

However, the way I knew it was love was how that love grew more as we learned more about each other. Even when we were apart and had broken up for awhile, love was still there. It was clouded by despair, but it was still there.

God led us back together and less than four years after we met, we were married. On that day I made a lasting commitment to honor him.  Before that day, though, I had made a conscious choice to love him.

I remember long phone calls when were more than 1,000 miles apart. I remember him showing up on my doorstep in Richmond, VA. I remember me making the decision to take a month’s leave of absence from a job I loved to come back to Missouri to find out if indeed we really did want to get married. These were all actions that indicated commitment.

Falling out of love

So many times we equate love with a feeling. The first time we have an argument and get angry, all of a sudden the feeling goes away and we “fall out of love.”

Maybe it’s kind of like I felt when I got up from falling down on the parking lot. My knee hurt. My stomach hurt. My pride hurt. My feeling had changed from just the moment before when I was laughing with my friends.

Feelings come and go. They are circumstantial. What matters is what we do as a result of the commitment we have made to a person. Attraction helps. Being compatible helps. Knowing that this is a person you could live with the rest of your life helps. But so does action resulting in what you say or have said.

Saying I love you is just not enough. It requires giving, listening, serving, caring, sacrificing and so much more. It requires hanging in there when everything within you cries out that it’s too difficult and you can’t do it.

In reality, you can’t do it, not alone. You so desperately need God’s help, especially to make a long-term commitment to someone who will surely do at least one thing you don’t like in the next 50 years.

Showing love by your actions to our friends and enemies is big in Scripture, so it should be an even bigger part of what we do for our mate. Consider this verse before you answer. “Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” (1 John 3:18 NLT)

Doing what you say

When Roy and I had been married about six years and going through a rough spot in our marriage we went to a counselor. He helped us with communication and other issues but the thing I remember most is an exercise he had us do. We each wrote down five quantitative things the other could do for us so that when they did it, it showed they loved us. (He excluded sex.) These had to be things that could be measured.

I only remember one that I wrote down. Take out the trash. He started that week and has done it since then. Before there would be an argument because he hadn’t taken out the trash. It was a ridiculous argument. How did he know taking out the trash meant I love you to me? I didn’t even know it.

One of his was to turn off the basement light. I tended to be the last person up the stairs in the evening and left the light on. It was a simple request but every time I did it, I did it knowing it meant I love you to him.

This worked for us because we had a third party asking us to do it. If you tell your spouse you really want this done, it doesn’t seem so much like a gift of love. However, if they do it without that, it does. It seems like a difficult game to play until we realize as Christians we have the secret weapon. That weapon is the Holy Spirit of God.

Many times, we think we can love each other without God’s help. We have this idea that “love, love will keep us together.” (Sing it with me.) We have been brainwashed by a society that has proven they don’t know what they are talking about. With the track record of divorce, it would seem a more appropriate song would be love will tear us apart.

The possibility of divorce

Professor Scott Stanley, a research professor and co-director of the Center for Family and Marital Stability at the University of Denver, does say that the 50% divorce rate statistic is not entirely representative of today’s tends.

He points out, though, that a young couple who gets married today, considering it is their first time being married, have a divorce risk of 40 percent. However, if neither has been divorced before and they can make it to 35 years of marriage they have almost no chance of ending in divorce.

That’s a couple of eye-opening statistics. I interpret them this way, if you have made love a commitment instead of a feeling, if you are showing love by your actions, you have every chance of your marriage making it.

I also believe that Christians who wield the secret weapon have even more of a chance of staying together before the 35-year mark.What has to happen, is very simple. Ask God what you can do for your spouse. When you hear that still, small voice or feel a prompting to do something, no matter how small or ridiculous, do it.

Thanks to Professor Stanley, I feel safe. We will have been married for 36 years on April 9. That still doesn’t mean, though, that I should do nothing for my husband or that I should stop loving him with my actions. It does mean that I should continue to ask God to show me even more ways to serve him.

The question I have for myself and for you is, what have you done today to show your spouse or someone important to you that you love them? Hint, it must be something that is for them and not for your benefit. If the action is to be interpreted as one of love, it must come from the heart.

Ask God. He’s pretty much got this love thing down pat. He’s put up with you for this long, hasn’t He?

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.