The Strongest and Deepest Kind of Love
Thursday - June 17th
Scripture to Read Today: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:8a
Just about three months after my mom died suddenly from an accident in her own home, my father informed my brother and me he was getting married. Dad would marry a woman twenty-three years younger than he was and with whom Troy and I had grown up. Our families liked dad's choice for a wife, but we did not think the two of them should be married so soon after mom's passing.
They planned to be married on September 1, 2000 - about five months after Mom stepped into eternity. Unfortunately, Troy was unable to attend the ceremony at the local courthouse in our hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana. I made the trip to be supportive of Dad and his new bride.
Due to flights canceled and delayed because of storms, I got to my dad's house around 3:00 am on Friday, September 1st - the wedding day. The plan was that the wedding ceremony would occur after Dad finished an eight-hour shift at the factory late that afternoon.
Before leaving for work that morning, my dad came into the room where I was sleeping and woke me up. "You want to know if I loved your mom, don't you?" He asked the question because he had married Mom just a couple of years after being in a severe car accident with her that was determined to be his fault. The accident left her (at age 14) unconscious for three months and left her with lifelong mental, emotional, and physical struggles. Nevertheless, it had been evident over the years that he truly loved Mom. But I knew what he was saying. He wanted to talk to me about whether he married her out of a sense of responsibility or because they were passionately in love.
I shared the conversation Dad and I had that morning about his love for Mom in my memoir, "All But Normal: Life on Victory Road." Below is the central part of what Dad told me that day about his love for Mom - it's actually his philosophy of love in general. And, it is a pretty good one. Here is the excerpt of what I wrote about that conversation early that Friday morning of Dad's second marriage.
"I believe the day you say 'I do,' love is commitment," he continued. "You commit to stay with that person for the rest of your life, no matter what. Even when it gets really hard, you find a way to make it work. Here's the key that your generation misses. When you do that out of commitment, over time devotion grows. As the years pass, the commitment that kept your love together transforms into a deep emotional bond—devotion—and love that grows from commitment to devotion is the strongest and deepest love."
He paused to drink his coffee and to reflect.
"Shawn, I couldn't leave your mother behind in the condition she was in after the accident. I've always asked myself if I married her out of a sense of duty because of my responsibility in the accident or out of devotion because we had so much fun together. I learned that real love is deep and develops over time as you give yourself to someone else. We had that. I had a deep affection for Bev, your mom."
He continued after another sip, his mind seemingly in a past era.
"After the accident I asked, 'Now what am I supposed to do? Just walk away from this situation? Should I try to hang around and see if I want to be with this girl? I have to make a decision,'" he said. "After we got married, I just tried to use the brain God gave me. And I struggled, but I tried to grow over time—did what I felt was best, loved your mom, helped you kids grow in the Lord, used my head."
Excerpt from: Thornton, Shawn. All but Normal: Life on Victory Road. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2016.
My father has a simple, straightforward approach to life. But it comes from a place of deep wisdom from a challenging life. He is right. True love for anyone starts and ends with commitment/duty. Affection (or devotion, romance, passion) gets stronger and deeper as we fulfill our commitment and carry out our responsibility to the one we love.
Do you love others first and foremost because of your deep commitment to them? True love starts and ends with that! The world tells us that love is primarily affection, devotion, and passion. The world also says that when any of that fades, you "fall out of love." My dad taught me something radically different. What he taught me was a Christlike love - the one described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
The strongest and deepest kind of love starts and ends with commitment, not how you feel at any given moment!