True Love: Finding beauty when we choose love

Twenty-two years ago, on Shawn's twenty-second birthday, he proposed to me. I was eighteen. We had been dating only a few weeks, but both of us knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

Eight months into our engagement, I had a stroke, and once in the hospital, I was diagnosed with a heart condition. At one point it looked so grim as to prompt my doctor to advise a transplant and predict I had less than ten years left to live. I was told I could never sustain a pregnancy.

Everyone looked to Shawn for his response. He solidified his commitment to me by standing tall and absorbing the news as if he were already my husband. He held my hand and reassured me that he would be there forever.

We were married five months later. Despite our young age and quick engagement, I was confident our marriage would last because it was built on a choice.

I recently read a book called All About Love by bell hooks. She uses a definition for love that moves beyond our feelings, quoting M. Scott Peck's words: love is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of one's own or another's... growth... Love is as love does. Love is an act of will--namely, both an intention and an action. Will implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose love."

Shawn chose love.

Ten years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. In the decade since then, I've had to rely on Shawn more as my muscles progressively get weaker.

Shawn is still choosing love.

Last week we went tent camping again, and we were chatting as we drove up the mountain. I told him about an upcoming interview with a local author who was writing a profile about me.

Shawn joked and said, "Are you going to tell her about how I bust my butt helping you? About how you couldn't go camping without me?"

I smiled and looked at him. Though we were laughing about his word choice, I gave him a genuine, honest reply, "Yes. Yes. I'm very grateful for you and your help. There are so many things I couldn't do without you." 

We sat for a moment in silence. His actions combined with my truth, spoken aloud, were more powerful than saying I love you. It was deeper than physical attraction. We knew it in our souls.

When society talks about love, we often focus on superficial romantic love, but there is a further layer of true love to be found. Hooks explains, "...we must mix care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, trust, and honest communication. It is discovered in our actions - in Peck's definition of love.

To access true love, we need to extend ourselves to further the growth of
   our partners 
   our parents
   our siblings
   our children
   our friends
   our colleagues
   our community
   our world.

We need to choose love.

My tattoo reminder to choose love.

What kinds of loving actions have you done?

Who in your life needs true love?

Some Doorways from last week:

  • I went with my sister and brother-in-law to see Norah Jones in concert. Her soulful voice and musical talent moved my heart.
  • I had an intense conversation with a friend in which I was asked to reflect on my life, my faith, and my purpose. It was beautiful to verbalize some of my deepest thoughts, and my friend received them with respect and grace.
  • At the grocery store, I was greeted with smile by the cashier as Mrs. Michael, my teaching name. I had taught her when she was in second grade, and she's now in college. It was beautiful to see how she had grown into a young woman.


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