Love is an act of the will. It is not a feeling. Our emotions are fleeting: one minute we feel madly, passionately in love, and the next we're arguing about whose family to spend Christmas with.
I got my first taste of this on our honeymoon. Our last day in Paris was supposed to be spent going to Mass at Notre Dame, and I had finally convinced my new husband to go to Disneyland Paris. But that day I woke up sick, with a fever and sore throat. He still got me to Mass at Notre Dame, because we only had to walk a few blocks to get there. But when we got back to our teeny hotel room I just crashed. And instead of going out to sightsee, he stayed right there with me, watching The Office on his laptop and letting me drift in and out of sleep.
The rest of our honeymoon was the trip of a lifetime, but as life moved on when we got home, I started realizing that honeymoon does end. It might happen nine months from now when all your pregnancy hormones come crashing down, as you learn how to take care of a newborn baby on her first day of life on the outside. It could be two years down the road, when you wake up and, for the first time ever, don’t feel the burning passion of new love.
And you make a choice: to serve. To put the other person’s good ahead of your own. To wake up and feed and change the baby so your husband can get a couple hours of sleep in a row (don’t worry; you’ll poke him awake for the next feeding). Or to be the one to roll out of bed first and start the coffee, say your prayers, and make lunches for you both to take to work.
I have to say, I am so grateful for my husband and how he takes the time each day to show me he loves me. RIght now, it’s not through love notes, spontaneous date nights, or even flowers or chocolate. It’s taking all of our kids up the stairs, helping them with baths, and getting them to bed so I can have a whole hour to myself. And in turn, I generally spend a good chunk of that hour cleaning up the kitchen to surprise him with non-sticky counters that aren’t cluttered with mail and homework and whatever craft I’m working on.
This doesn’t mean that your love has faded and gone away, never to return again. No. It’s growing, changing, maturing, deepening. Each time you make a tiny sacrifice for your beloved, a small act done with great love, you are growing closer together, both of you, toward God.
Sometimes it's the same with the spiritual life. New conversions and reversions grant us the honeymoon phases when we feel like we’re on fire for Him each and every day. But slowly it can fade. Some experience a dark night of the soul. In these times we have to show our love to God through prayer, Mass, and sacrifice even when we aren’t given the joys of spiritual consolation. It's there that love for God deepens and quietly burns stronger, as actions stand as proof of love.