How does love grow? In the simplest of terms, most would wager to guess it grows through time spent together. To get a little more complicated, we'd venture to say it is pursuing things important to the other person, considering their wants and needs above your own, and laying down your life for theirs. Now, most of us would do okay with the first definition - because spending time together is a whole lot easier than this idea of considering another's needs above our own, or being sacrificial in our time, energies, or talents. Yet, the more closely we allow love to be based on the pursuit of things important to the other person, learning to consider their needs above your own, and giving out of our lives in a sacrificial manner, the closer we are coming to emulating the love Jesus has for his children!
I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:9-11 CEV)
Indeed, love is a growth opportunity - you don't just wake up one morning with the determination in your mind that "today I will love someone deeply and with a lasting permanence in that love". Little by little, as time is spent together with another, we develop an "affinity" toward the other person. In a little more time, we actually develop some kind of desire to see the other person blessed and happy. We want what is best in the relationship - pursuing things which bring unity and a sense of "cohesiveness" in the relationship.
Now, let's consider this in terms of our growing relationship with Jesus, shall we? Love begins at the point of grace - unmerited favor extended into our lives - love emulated so we might get a glimpse of how deep, how wide, and how long his love really is. Then, as time passes, we grow closer to him by spending time with him. In those moments together, there is a changing of the guard, so to speak. The desire to be "in control" and pursuing only what is important to us seems to change - we begin to experience what it is like to pursue the things important to him - those things which bring him honor and praise.
As we spend time with Jesus, our choices become apparent - those which are selfish and primarily produce outcomes which only benefit us will be exposed; those which begin to reveal the heart of God to others will also come to the surface. In essence, time spent together begins to refine our choices. I think this is why God gives us the example of parents - why he chose to establish families in such a way. You see, God could have come up with any plan he desired to bring about more people on this earth, but he chose the love of a man and a woman to be the means by which this is accomplished. Why? To give us a framework in which love is modeled.
Modeled behavior speaks louder than any words - so parental love begins to model for us the love of our heavenly Father. Now, I know not all of us have been blessed to have a positive earthly example in this respect, but in general, this is what God had in mind before sin got the best of our human race! In the family, God wanted us to see modeled the right choices we are to make. So, to this end, he sends us Jesus, who took on human form - to model for us the right choices we are to make when we commit to this love relationship. Flawed earthly examples could not model his love in quite the same manner, so he sends us "a God with a bod" as my pastor says it - Jesus!
To fully know and then to actually walk in the right choices is a process. It comes by watching - no more like studying - the behavior of another - Jesus. The more we behold his example, the more we begin to emulate his behavior. His life stands as a testimony of the power of living a pure life. His example points us toward love like we have never experienced before. His modeled behavior directs us to the place of obedience over and over again, until our obedience becomes "second nature" to us - it is no longer hard to produce the right outcomes because they have become part of who we are. This is love, growing and vibrant, indeed. Just sayin!