Intentional Love

intentional

One of my favorite words is “intentional.” In fact, it looks like it is my unintentional (hah!) word of the year for 2018. Intentionality is the key to so many good things. Being intentional is the key to being successful, to developing and maintaining good habits, to growing healthy relationships, to becoming a better version of yourself every day, etc. Growth and good things don’t happen on accident, right? We have to set goals on purpose and then sit down and figure out how to reach them and then we have to actually do it. On purpose. With intention.

I finished up what Dominican Netflix has to offer of How to Get Away with Murder today. I don’t want to spoil it for you (because it is a whirlwind of plot twists and hook ups!) so let’s just say that two of the characters are in a romantic (hetero) relationship. The guy sits down and very intentionally tells his girlfriend, “I love you. So much. I love you.” She freezes and isn’t sure how to respond. Later she tells him that she doesn’t want to say it unless she means it. Then, later later she does say it. She says, “I love you,” and it’s great but kind of in the middle of a dramatic moment (someone has a gun) and then Season 3 is over and I’ll never know what happens next unless/until Dominican Netflix adds Season 4.

But it got me thinking about love and about how you know when you love someone in a romantic context, which got me thinking about love in general. I really believe that love is as much a choice as it is a feeling. (This is why I would be totally okay with an arranged marriage… but that’s another blog post.) Sure, love is often based on feelings, but then it is fed and nourished and maintained by intentional choices.

This morning one of the songs we sang at Life Church Canton (which I attend via Facebook) repeated the words, “I will love you, God.” I will love you. My love for God is based on feelings. I feel seen by Him and loved by Him and valued by Him. But my response, my loving response, is acted out in intentional choices every day. I will love Him because I choose to love Him.

It’s the same way that I love my friends and my family and my students – I love them because I feel love for them, but I also love them when I intentionally do and say things that show love to them in ways that they feel loved. (I also love them when I apologize for doing and saying things that do not show love to them.)

I don’t want to bluster through life without a plan, without intention. I want a goal. I press on toward the mark. I will love God and I will love others. On purpose. Romans 12:18 comes to mind. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” You are in charge of you, which means I am in charge of me. As far as it depends on me, I want to make the choice to live at peace with the people around me.

Remember in youth group when your youth leader inevitably told you that you have to decide where you want to draw the physical touch line with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Remember how they said you have to make the decision and have the discussion beforehand so that when you’re in the moment it’s already been decided? Well, that’s how I want to live my life. I want to decide beforehand to react and proact (which isn’t a word but obviously should be) in love. As far as it depends on me, I want to live at peace.

Intentionality is a muscle to be exercised, flexed, toned. Not all of us are born with self-control and intentionality. Some of us have to develop that practice. This year one of the ways I am practicing self-control is by giving up meat, particularly beef and pork. Before making the decision I sat down with myself and decided where to draw the line – no beef, no pork, chicken only at fast food restaurants (which has happened 4 times in the last 5 months) – and now I intentionally choose every day to eat things that aren’t beef, pork, or chicken.

Love is the same way. A long time ago I sat down with myself and decided that I wanted to draw a line between myself and sin. I decided that I wanted to intentionally seek after God and intentionally put myself on the path towards the me I was intended to be, the best version of myself. And now every day I choose to say and do things that communicate love to people around me as I become more like the God and good in me. I do it imperfectly and inconsistently, but with overall intention.

How about you? What are you doing intentionally? What should you be doing intentionally?

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