Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lou Ferrigno. Steve Reeves (you have to be in my age group to remember him.)
When we think of those names we think of one thing- muscles! Big, well-developed muscles.
They got those muscles through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. And after all that work, after all that strenuous activity, hours upon hours in the gym, proper diet, and loss of personal time with friends and family, if they don’t keep at it, those muscles get weak and flabby.
No, muscle doesn’t turn into fat- totally different things, but they do get flabby and weaken. Muscles need to be worked constantly to remain strong.
We all know that the heart is a muscle, but love is only a feeling right? Is it? Most people would say that love is an emotional thing, not a physical thing; however, if you have ever been in love you know that it can affect you physically.
I submit that love is a muscle. You know that old saying, don’t you? The one that goes:
“If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”
Love has a physical effect, love is something we feel and experience; when we are unloved, it hurts and when we are loved, it is better than the best adrenalin or endorphin high any athlete can experience. Love acts like a muscle, it works like a muscle, it hurts like a muscle, and it grows like a muscle. Sounds to me like it’s a muscle.
Love needs to be nurtured and it needs to be constantly worked at. It takes sacrifice, it takes hard work, it takes humility, it takes compassion. It takes as much work as any physical effort you would make to build any other muscle in your body.
And like the muscles you get when you work out steadily, you need to keep at it to maintain what you have gotten. I am no muscle-man by any stretch of the imagination (although I do have a pretty nice set of guns for an old fart) and I work twice as hard at just maintaining what I have as I ever did building it up. I also work just as hard, if not harder, to maintain the love I feel for Donna (my wife) and my family and friends. I don’t do social media because I believe that is more like broadcasting than committed communication. I call and email people one-to-one to demonstrate that I am willing to take the time to be with them, and them alone.
Today everything is cocooned- yes, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. have made socializing easier, but is it the right kind of socializing? Is it really intimate? Is it really one-on-one? Does it take effort? These technological forms of communication have taken something very valuable out of communication- it has taken away the love. It has taken away the intimacy of talking to someone and replaced it with the cold, unemotional and unattached simplicity of just posting something on a bulletin board for any and all to see. In other words, it takes no effort and building love takes effort.
Love needs to be personal. How can it not be? Love for one’s fellow man (or woman), love of art, love of nature- these are all good, but impersonal.
There are so many passages in the Bible about love I won’t even put one here, except the most important one- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.
See? Didn’t I tell you that love is a muscle? God tells us to love Him with all our might and you need muscles to be strong.
The message today is really simple- we are commanded to love God and to love each other- this takes a lot to do. We are, by nature, self-centered, self-absorbed and selfish. We are sinful and hedonistic. We can overcome our Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclinations) with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leading us if we follow what it says, and if we exercise our love.
I am not one to talk. I am saying do as I say (actually, do as He says) and not as I do. I try to do what pleases God and fail many times. And when I do something good, I revert back. If backsliding was an Olympic sport I would hold many gold medals. But I keep trying, and that is what we all need to do. To run the good race, to keep our eyes on the prize, to build muscles of love and not let them get flabby.
The V’ahavta prayer (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) tells us to love God, and remember His commandments, to speak of them when we arise and when we sleep. I do. I also make sure that when I arise I tell my wife, Donna, that I love her. And when we go to sleep, I tell her that I love her. And I tell her that I love her as often as the feeling hits during the day (and it hits a lot.) I also remember to tell my sisters Wendy and Gayle that I love them. I would tell my children, Alexandra and Bryce, that I love them (if they would talk to me.) I do this not just because I do love them, but it is also how I exercise my love. It’s how I keep it strong.
You really want to build up a sweat exercising your love? Tell your spouse how much you love them next time you are in the middle of an argument! Yes, right there in between the “You always” and the “Why don’t you ever” statements say, “You know, despite all this I love you and I am so thankful we are married. Even though I am pissed right now, I am still very much in love with you and never want to be with anyone else. Ever.”
Then go back to arguing… if you can.
Love is really strong when you exercise it regularly, and it has the strength to knock out anger and hatred in one punch. Wouldn’t you like to be that strong?