How do I know if what I feel is love?

Ever since I was 5 years old I’ve been in love, or what I thought was love, with one girl or another. But was what I felt love or lust? I really want … no, I really need to know. Love is the greatest mystery of my life. I have never used the word profusely, and when I have it’s generally been in a romantic sense. Love songs I can relate to. They tug at my heart strings. Romantic love is identifiable; it’s palpable; it makes my heart beat fast and my eyes close as I revel in the feelings it engenders. I did eventually learn to differentiate that from lust. And then there’s the love discussed in the Bible; Song of Songs excepted.

The love discussed in the Bible is not the same emotion. The feelings I have for family, children and friends are nothing like the feelings I have for the fairer sex. Are there really different emotions and is what I feel for those close to me feelings of love which are different from what I’ve always identified as love in a romantic sense? Based on the emotion I feel for different persons I can basically identify four categories.

The aforementioned, easily identifiable “romantic, passionate, physical and emotional love” which I felt for Marilyn is the first. The emotions I feel for family, for my children, siblings and their offspring is the second category, albeit not all of them are in that category.

There are the emotions evoked when I think of people in my circle; church family members, friends outside of church, Facebook friends. Last are the relatively neutral emotions I feel for anyone else in the world who doesn’t express a dislike or hatred of me. I have to put those who do express hatred for me and everything I hold dear in their own category. For them I feel easily identifiable emotions of disgust, detest and dread.

When I take the time to really consider my feelings for people in my life it all boils down to this. If I awoke in the morning to the realization that I would never again see them, hear their voice, feel their touch or sense their presence, would I began to sob uncontrollably like I did on the morning of November 19, 2000, with the realization that my bride was gone forever from this world?

Or, would I feel a sense of loss but not despair at the realization that they were gone forever? Would I feel sad but not distraught at the realization that I would never hear their voice, see their face or hug them ever again? Would I most likely regret that I didn’t get to know them better but feel no real sense of loss in the knowledge that they too were gone forever from this life?

Is love a thing of shades? Are there shades in the in between of those categories which make it difficult to place an emotional attachment to a person in a specific category? I realize that when I break it down this way and then begin a review of the people in my life I am surprised at the emotions that arise. Some of the people I would have thought belonged in the third category evoke second category emotions. Some of the people whom, it would seem belong in category two drop to category three or even four. But no one fits in category one. As much as I would like to feel that category one emotion once again I don’t. The thought alone makes me realize how attached to the person of Marilyn that emotion is, which makes me realize how personalized love becomes.

I’ve stated on a number of occasions, and written in “Dear Mom and Dad,” that I miss that emotion terribly, as painful as the loss of the person who evokes the emotion can be, I’d risk it again if the opportunity arose. I know it would be a separately personalized emotion, and maybe not as powerful, but it would be a category one love emotion nonetheless.

No, I’m not ignoring the love expressed so profusely in the Bible … just saving the best, albeit the most difficult for me to comprehend, for last. Seems absurd for someone who grew up on the fifth pew back to find it difficult to comprehend Abba’s love doesn’t it. But there it is. People in church cannot say goodbye to another without saying, “Love you!” (not “I love you!” Just, “Love you.) And it is said to everyone including the people you only see and/or communicate with for a few moments on Sunday morning.

I’ve heard about it all my life, but it was just a word unrelated to anything I identified with as love. After all he was God, my Heavenly Father and absolutely nothing in my relationship, if that’s what you could call it , with him came remotely close to what I felt when I thought about the little blonde in the short dress in the second grade. It was a word which was sprinkled generously throughout the scriptures. Early in my life it seemed to be always used something like this: “I, God, love you and therefore since I love you I expect you to behave like I want you to. You owe me that. And don’t argue with me about it.”

On a certain level, I could understand loving a real live touchable seeable person, but an unseen, untouchable and particularly un-understandable entity called God, that was simply beyond my grasp. Even after my return to his fold, admittedly in gradual and slow steps after I sobered up, and then more so after my reluctant baptism before Marilyn died, I felt nothing I could identify as love; not for God, not for anyone but Marilyn. It’s hard to love an unseen, untouchable entity whom it appears is ignoring your pleas for healing.

I can’t remember crying much at all as an adult, with the exception of moments like that one in the snow on the hill overlooking my home on the Pine River. But, upon Marilyn’s death a continual flood of tears erupted like a desert storm flash flood. Maybe it was God’s way of flushing all the resistance in my soul and heart out of me. If that’s what it was, it eventually worked.

I will never forget the moment I lost all composure for the first time on hearing a song of praise and thanksgiving in church. It moved me immensely. And, it prompted me to at last began praying sincerely for that other kind of love I never understood, much less felt. Have I arrived yet? No, I’m not sure exactly what that other love feels like, but it’s like that sense you get when, after a long absence from your home when you realize it’s just around the corner.

So … after putting all this down I have one ultimate test of my emotions of love for another person. Would I offer my life as ransom for the life of the person in question? Would you? Didn’t someone do that for me already?

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