How do you know if you are in love?
That is an important question, and it has been asked as long as the sexes have interacted. But as you have probably figured out, there is no such thing as a love formula, nothing to tell you absolutely that you are in love, or that you are not.
So even though the question cannot be answered directly—by me, or anyone—there are a few markers you should watch for that will provide some insight into this crazy little thing called love.
First, I do not subscribe to the notion that there is one special person just for you and that if you miss that person you have missed God’s perfect will for you. God is not that small or narrow-minded, and neither is love.
Infatuation is like betting on the lottery. Love is like having money in the bank.
Second, the power of attraction between men and women is an amazing thing. When you consider the amount of ink devoted to love in literature, poetry, and lyrics to love songs, and when you consider how many times people make mistakes in their love lives, you get an idea of how complex love is and how powerful the attraction of love is. Given this, I do not subscribe much to the notion of “falling in love.” I think it is more accurate to say you grow into love and fall into infatuation.
The allure of affection, closeness, intimacy, acceptance, companionship, desire, and bonding at a deep level with another person are easily compromised by the force of sexual desire and the infatuation of sex appeal. Don’t get me wrong, sex appeal is a wonderful thing and should be enjoyed and celebrated appropriately. However, this must not be mistaken for love. Infatuation is like betting on the lottery. Love is like having money in the bank.
Third, someone has said that love is blind. This is true, and is both good and bad. I do not look today like I looked the day my wife agreed to marry me. I’m not as handsome as I once was. However, my wife’s love is somewhat blind to my age and she still thinks I am the greatest thing since sliced bread. In this way it is good that love is blind.
On the other hand, when you are trying to determine if you truly are in love with someone, and trying to do so while enmeshed with that person, love is blind as a bat. This is a bad thing! When you are toying with the rest of your life and another person’s heart, it is a bad thing to lose your objectivity, but we all do. My point is this: If you find yourself wondering if you are in love, and there are no friends around who can give you truly honest, candid feedback about what they are observing in you, then you are on dangerous ground. Love is dangerous if isolated from friendship.
Sex requires no practice early on. And, sex will not prove your love any more than steak sauce proves that a steak is a steak.
Fourth, love does not hurry, does not get in a panic, does not force the issue, does not try to conform you into their image—or themselves into yours—does not reduce your emotional bank account in order to increase their own, and does not demand things of you that will place you in jeopardy should you decide in the near future to part ways.
Fifth, love does not require sex and physical involvement in order to grow and take firm root in your heart. (Make sure you read this point a couple of times. It is absolutely true all of the time.) Furthermore, you do not need to practice sex—or have sex—in order to determine if you are in love or not. Sex requires no practice early on. And, sex will not prove your love any more than steak sauce proves that a steak is a steak. Love is the steak, sex is the sauce. The steak by itself is extravagantly wonderful. The sauce by itself is miserable and bitter afterward. Don’t ever get this analogy backwards, and if you already have, I encourage you to regroup and place proper boundaries around yourself as you attempt to rebuild your relationship from the proper perspective. Christ through you is your empowerment to accomplish this.
Sixth, love does not always agree on the details, but love always has the fundamentals in focus. In other words, it is diversity and uniqueness that fashions you to love carrots and him to hate them. However, you both better be of one mind when it comes to the important issues in life: Where you are with Jesus Christ, family planning, financial planning, in-law compatibility, and long term goals?
Seventh, if you have not had a good fight, and loved each other through it, then you do not know if you love each other. Love is consistent day in and day out. Emotional infatuation is fickle, like the directions of the wind, and it won’t hang around much past the first round or two of the fight.
God created us with a desire for love so we would have a desire for Him.
Eighth, seek counsel from your friends, as well as from those who are older and know you well. Determine that you will seek their wisdom while working diligently to assess what you are seeking in a mate. Work on creating this list until you are certain you have been honest with yourself. Then, and only then, evaluate the person you have in your sights by this list. Get assistance in making sure you are being honest with your evaluation. This list will reveal the desires of your heart—if you are honest—and God promises He will give you the desires of your heart. Don’t settle for less than He has in mind by casting your dream on the future instead of anticipating the person God dreams of giving you.
Ninth, unless you are talking about God’s love, there is no guarantee. God placed a deep desire for love in us to provide a portrait of Himself and draw us to Him. Given this, He created us with a desire for love so we would have a desire for Him, and in His grace and wisdom—which I don’t understand—He permits us to offer portraits of Him through our love for each other.
Stated candidly, we have an uncanny way of messing up His image of love. Most of us try hard not to, but we offer inaccurate portraits of love that confuse and wound. While God remains constant, His love undiminished, and His resolve to love us resolute, we are vulnerable to those we love and allow to love us.
You simply must have time alone to pray and ask your heavenly Father for His perspective about the one you think you love--and the one who thinks he loves you.
The person you love is no doubt a great individual, but he is not God. He is fallible and capable of hurting your heart more deeply than you ever dreamed possible. Should this happen, and it will to varying degrees, love is not to blame, and it does not necessarily mean you missed love or were not in love to begin with. It simply means you risked by loving. While love can take us to heights that enable us to touch the face of God, the poor choices of those we love can plummet us to the very pit of hell.
Wow! That’s a tough picture, isn’t it? Take courage. By loving and being loved you understand God’s heart, and in this it is truly “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” While God will never desert you, be unfaithful to you, be unkind with you, or compromise your relationship with Him, try as you will to avoid it, you will fail Him. But He loves you still!
In this you see a portrait of His consistent and unconditional love. When others wound you, you capture something of how God feels, and therefore grasp a bit of the commitment and vulnerability that is His heart of love for you. In other words, God lets you love and be loved in order to be touched by His love and return the same to Him.
Tenth, and most important, you simply must have time alone to pray and ask your Heavenly Father for His perspective. Prayer is not so much talking with God—although this is certainly part of it—as it is listening to God. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
So be still. Get away from your lover. Be by yourself, not once in a while, or for ten minutes, but for longer periods of time on a regular basis. Listen.
Remember, love does not get in a hurry. If this is the right person, God will let you know, confirm it by the counsel of others, and give you great confidence in your heart. Armed with this awareness, you can commit the rest of your days, and all that you are and hope to be, into the hands of another person. In this, you will realize and recognize love.
Here is the bottom line: Love is a commitment of the heart that will stand the test of wavering emotions, intellectual rationalizing, circumstantial allure, hormonal infatuation, and even the wounds of your lover. Anything less is not true love.
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