Characteristics of true love -- part of spiritual health, fitness

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt Col) Raul Sanchez
  • 71st Flying Training Wing
As we begin a new year full of enthusiasm, courage, motivation and dedication to serve God and country, as part of our spiritual health and fitness I would like to reflect on some characteristics of true love that are applicable to everybody no matter who you are or what you do.
This can be between a husband and wife, a boy and a girl friend or simply between friends.
In a very special way it can be applicable to you as a military person, you who are about to begin your training, who just came to Vance, who are about to earn your wings, who have been married for many years, or who are in love and are thinking of getting married in the near future. I have observed three characteristics in true love: conviction, physical presence and communion.
"Conviction" is the first characteristic of true love. Love is very important in our lives. Personally, if I would have to make a choice between life and love, I would certainly choose love. Love means many things and when it sparks it can turn into something very beautiful. It is because of love that we do so many wonderful things and make many sacrifices in life. Love is the reason of our own existence.
Conviction should be understood as a fixed or strong belief and or the state of being convinced. This means if I am married, I must convince myself every morning, every day, I love my spouse and children. If I am in the military, I must convince myself I love to be in the military; I must convince myself I love my uniform, I love to fly, I love my job and I love to come to work. I must convince myself I love to do what I do. I love to be a military chaplain and as such I have convinced myself I have the best job in the Air Force, the best assignment, the best team, the best supervisor and the best ministry. I must convince myself every day. If you love someone, you must convince yourself you love that person. Do not go just by feelings or emotions, rather by a decision and a commitment that you have made or you are about to make. When everything is going just fine there is no problem; but when things get tough, difficult and you may feel like quitting ... it is time to think of conviction. We can also say this is applicable to you in your relationship with God. You know God loves you, and you are to believe God truly loves you because it is true. He already proved it to you. The question now is: Do you love God? How do you show it, how do you prove it? What do you do about it? You must convince yourself every day of your life you truly love God. It is exactly the same thing: conviction.
"Physical presence" is the second characteristic of true love. When you are right there next to the person you love, you can contemplate the person's beauty and enjoy the physical presence and their company. You look into each other eyes, you hold hands, you engage in mutual conversations, you have a meal together, you go for a walk, you go to a movie, etc. The physical presence is very important in your love life. You always want to be with that person, you want to share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, success, failures, past and future. You want to have fun; you want to have a good time. And if the person is sick you want to provide all the possible comfort and support. When we are far away, the absence of the person we love becomes more present in our minds, hearts and souls since the physical presence is not there. We think of them day and night. Every time I deployed I used to ask a question to our military personnel: single or married? If married and with children ... who do you miss the most? Usually the answer was: "I miss my 'little one' the most." And I would see their tears rolling down ... they missed, of course, not just their little ones, but the spouse and the rest of the children as well. Singles would miss their girl or boy friend more, or their parents back home.
All of us had one thing in common: "We miss the person we love." When we say we miss the person, we mean the physical presence of that person, the company of the person. What do we do? We communicate, call, send cards, packages, letters and tell them how much we love them and miss them. In those days it was harder because there was no such thing as Internet or e-mail. Just the phone and wait for your turn ... then you can make your morale call. Thanks to God and to our country, we have now Internet, a public library and, in a second, we communicate with the ones we love. We save money, time, energy; and we have less stress and anxiety. We are right there, so far away and yet so close. The more you enjoy the company of that person, the more you are going to miss that person. Presence brings meaning to your life, motivation, direction and pushes you to excel at what you do. You want them to be proud of you.
Your presence to them is very meaningful too. You, as a military person, whether you are deployed or at home, your presence here or abroad, brings meaning to our country and to its people. Our country is the greatest nation in the world. Your presence means a lot. God is always with you. God is present in you life. The presence of God in your life should be a source of love and life, of grace and holiness. Remember, you will never get lost in the eyes of God. God knows you and loves you. Physical presence to your loved one is very important. Spend time together, do things together, be always together. The same thing with God!
"Communion" is the third characteristic of true love. You have convinced yourself you love this or that person, who is physically present, right there with you. Now, you need to be in communion with that person. When you are in "union" and in "communion" with that person, your joy is complete. You experience "oneness" of life and love; you become "one" in every aspect, mind and body, heart and soul, and yet you both retain your own individuality. Communion is the greatest expression of true love. If there is no communion, no matter how much you love each other, how much you care for each other ... there will be a lot of arguing. When couples tell me they have a perfect relationship, a perfect marriage ... I do not believe it. I don't question their love for each other, what I question is their perfection. Some days are good and some are bad. You may think what does this priest know about married love and family when he himself is single? Well, let me tell you, I grew up in a large family in Mexico, and when my mom and dad did not communicate well, and they were not in communion, I saw those dishes flying over my head and sometimes for something very simple like stress or anxieties of daily life. You hear expressions from "I don't want to see your face for the rest of the day" ... to "don't touch me." And what happens? Well, you feel upset, angry, doubtful, confused, and if you don't make up before you go to sleep, you will not rest and the next morning you are going to be tired, grouchy and you will not be able to function well at work the next day. Communion is vital in a healthy relationship. We can say that love overcomes almost everything, but not everything. If there is love but there is no communion in that relationship, there are problems. This is the time to talk to a friend, to go to the life skills center, to talk to your chaplain, pastor, counselor ... someone you can really trust. Remember, your spouse or the person you love is not your counselor, he or she is your friend, lover, partner, equal, spouse ... life.
If you are single and you are contemplating marriage, I would recommend you begin with three things: psychological readiness, financial readiness and spiritual readiness. Pre-marital counseling and marriage preparations are paramount before you say, "I do." If you are married, remember God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and ends in view. All of these have a very important bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of every member of the family, on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family and of the whole human race. By its very nature, the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory. Thus the man and woman, "who are no longer two but one" (Matthew. 19:6), help and serve each other by their marriage partnership; they become conscious of their unity and experience it more deeply from day to day. The intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons and the good of the children, demands total fidelity from the spouses and requires an unbreakable unity between them. Conjugal communion is characterized not only by its unity but also by its indissolubility.
When you are in communion with the person you love, your joy is complete. Be in communion with your self, with your loved ones and with God, your Creator.