Love at first sight is an attraction that may or may not survive the interaction to follow. But love (true love, as we often say) lingers and lifts itself above the defects and disappointments of a developing relationship. True love labors at love.
When compared to a history of pre-arranged marriages and mail-order brides, our present society seems to fair no better in the area of love. Statistics on divorces can be disheartening. One might well ask, "Why is it that love does not last?" The answer may well be in this truth: love is a learning process.
Ezekiel, that major Old Testament prophet, finds the Lord relating this sad physical reality to spiritual truths: God says of his people, "Thou art thy mother's daughter, that loathes her husband and her children" [Ez. 16:45]. How is it that a wife would loathe her husband or that a mother could loathe her children? This is not a gender problem, this is a people problem. Husbands are warned concerning their wives, "be not bitter against them" [Col. 3:19].
One might argue that the spouse is at fault in certain cases; and, one might argue in a few cases that the children are at fault. But the truth is, some parents despise their children and some partners despise their spouse. Why? Why do some feel such resentment? It may as simple as this truth: they were never taught how to love their spouse or how to love their children.
Among the things called sound doctrine in the New Testament is the admonition to aged men and woman to be teachers. The aged men are to be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women are to be in their behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things [Titus 2:1-3]. Included in those "good things" which a mother teaches is how to love their husbands and how to love their children [Titus 2:4].
How do we learn to love our spouse? We learn by observing the relationship of our parents. If that love did not exist, then we have, at the least, a picture of what not to do. Likewise, the love taught by how parent treated child in our own youth molds our ability to love our children. If it was lacking in some degree, we can and must make certain it does not lack toward our own. We must learn to love.
Love does not give a license for neglect or abuse. Love demands presence and patience; it shares desire and shows discipline. Love is respectful of self and servant to others. Love labors at control, that it may be both the strength and the satisfaction of its companion, whether that companion be their spouse or their offspring.
There are some old proverbs regarding parents and children: of fathers and sons, we often say that the apple does not fall far from the tree; of mothers and daughters, we often say that as is the mother, so will be the daughter. If there is a shortcoming, it has to be changed by us, as the parent of our own children and the husband or wife of our own spouse. Through time spent together, through shared trials and achieved goals, we can learn to love because love is a learning process.