That was the question I thought a lot about when I needed to choose a topic for my doctoral thesis at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. How do I know if I love someone?

It was certainly not a new topic. In fact, every human being who has ever lived has probably pondered the love question. Am I loved? Am I able to love others? What is the meaning of love? And so, I read over a hundred books on the subject and as I did, I absorbed what others have to say about love. These themes kept coming up. Loving relationships are happening when people CHEK each other out. What does it mean to CHEK someone?

C is for CHOOSE. We choose to love or not to love. And a loving relationship doesn’t seem to be one sided. Both in the relationship need to choose. I can love you, but if you don’t love me, it’s not a mutually loving relationship. Engagement to be married begins with a powerful choice. Will you marry me? Yes, I will! Marriage is a decision, a promise, for two people to continue to choose each other in the years ahead, and when both continue to that commitment, marriage works quite well. But what is the content the choice? The content is suggested in the next three letters: H is for HELP. I choose to help and do whatever I can to make life better for you, and I trust that you are in this relationship to help me, too. E is for ESTEEM. I value and respect who you are, both the inner and the outer of your self. I’m not here to change you, discredit you, diminish or reject you. I’m here to enjoy and welcome you into my world and into my life. K is for KNOW. I love you when I take time to listen to you and welcome your thoughts, ideas, feelings and the details of your life. Knowing someone intimately is a journey of a lifetime, because there will always be more to learn about another person as we go through the ups and downs of the journey.

When engaged couples say “I do” on their wedding day, the content of their “I do!” is a commitment to continue to Choose, Help, Esteem and Know each other in the years ahead. If you’re willing to be a partner in that journey, then you can be fairly confident that you are motivated by true love. My thoughts about love have been most influenced by a simple phrase Christian scriptures: “Now abides faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is LOVE.”    

On the path of understanding the meaning of love and sharing that path with others, Rev. Dr. Frank Nelson

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