Is love really love if it's not expressed in words or deeds?

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Minister's Forum

By Dave Bell

"Most people grow in love with, and marry people who meet their needs." This statement, by Dr. Hafer, was shared with us one Thursday morning at the weekly seminar he led for a small group of ministers in our town.

I don’t know if that was a widely held concept back then, or even now, but I do know I was intrigued by the comment.
My wife, however, took issue with the statement as I shared it with her. She said something like: “That’s rubbish. He is not going to tell me that I grew to love you. I fell in love. A person doesn’t grow in love.”
She has a lot of company in that opinion, but, personally, I don’t remember falling in love.  That is, one moment not loving, and then immediately after a "fall" realizing that I loved.
Let me tell you my story.
I was about four months shy of my 39th birthday when my father fell, suffering a fractured skull, from which he would neither awaken nor survive. I remember seeing him in the  hallway, on a gurney, waiting to be transported to a large metropolitan hospital. My mother leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. It was the first time I had ever seen any intimate contact between my parents or them and my siblings. (I also never saw any intimate contact or expressions of affection between any of my grandparents and their children. Never.)
My parents were married during the Great Depression, and I was born seven months later. My birth certificate lists my mother’s occupation as housewife and my father’s as none. It’s no wonder that in our home, there wasn’t much to laugh about, nor was there much fun and games. It was a good home, and I was never abused or mistreated in any way, and my needs were always provided by my parents.
I can remember back a long way, and I don’t ever recall being kissed, or told I was loved. Did they love me? I don’t know for sure. They never told me, and I never asked them. As a matter of fact, the word love was not in my vocabulary until I attended a high school English class.
When I left home at 18 for the military, my mother and I, while sitting at the breakfast table, exchanged words of farewell without touching. My father dropped me off at the bus stop, and promised to see me on my return, scheduled for a few months later. My mother wrote regularly, and I can’t recall her ever putting the word "love" in any correspondence to me.
Only once, during the several times I returned for brief visits during my four years in the service, did my father and I touch. And that was a time when we shook hands as I boarded a bus, but I can’t recall who initiated that gesture.   
I’m not seeking pity or placing blame. I had good parents. I bear some blame for the situation as it existed. I didn’t try to change it. I didn’t see anything wrong with the way things were.
But around my 45th birthday, due to reading a newspaper column written by my friend, the late Bob Hastings, I became convinced I needed to try to change what I had come to perceive as a real deficiency in my relationship with family.
Living out of state and knowing if I waited I would talk myself out of doing anything, I phoned my mother. Perhaps I was hoping she would finally tell me that she loved me. Or perhaps it was just a ploy to soothe my own conscience, but whatever, for the first time in my life I told her that I loved her.  (Her reply may be told at a later date.) More difficult yet was meeting with my oldest son, and for the first time ever, telling him that I loved him. I also shared part of this story with him, and after that, it was much easier telling my other children.
My wife and I do disagree on some aspects of love, but my love for her has been growing ever since I first started believing that she loved me. For the first time in my life, someone, and she was the one, expressed love for me. She made me feel important and needed. That may be egotistic, but it was what I needed.
More amazing however, I believe she loves me more than she did when she "fell" in love with me. And we express that love in words and in deeds.
But I feel the same way about my spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that faith without action may not really be faith (the Bible speaks to this issue in James 2:26) and that love without expression may not really be love (see John 13:35).
The Lord tells of his love for us in the Bible, and he demonstrates his love to us with good gifts and other blessings we have enjoyed.
Now it is up to us, including me, to respond, both vocally and by action.
Let me ask you a question. The next time we’re around each other, will I be able to notice expressions of your love for God by the way you talk, and what you do?