She sat down across from me in my office. I knew her and her family as part of my church. She was married with two young children. She had come for counseling…she said. She had met a man, a father, at her kids’ school. They were in love… “God brought us together.” I listened quietly and let her tell her story. When she was finished I simply asked, “What is it you want from me?” Her reply was something like, “I don’t want your opinion. I just wanted you to know what I’m going to do.” And so two families were blown up because two people ‘fell in love.’
Over my years of pastoral counseling I have heard countless stories from men and women – wives and husbands – who were no longer ‘in love’ and wanted me to guide them out of their marriage with my blessing…or God’s blessing. One woman cited “emotional abandonment.” One man complained that his wife and daughter complicated his career as a musician. One young wife said her husband didn’t feel ‘emotionally safe’ for her because he didn’t understand her. Such a variety of reasons for a common malady: we don’t really know what love is.
We usually think of love as rainbows, butterflies and sunsets. It is a wonderful feeling and a fluttering heart. It is daydreams and possibilities. Our culture – movies, books, music and television – has taught us this very thing and we have bought into it completely. I was married for 39 years and I can assure that neither Budd nor I spent every day with our hearts aflutter and goofy grins on our faces. If love is not more than a warm feeling then we are all doomed. That ‘feeling’ is not sustainable.
Real love is an attitude, a commitment and a covenant. Love is much more like cement than it is rainbows. When guarded, protected and nurtured love becomes a foundation upon which to build a life. Unlike a rainbow, real love does not dissipate when life gets difficult and hearts feel dry. Infatuation, crushes and daydreams are not the stuff upon which to build a life. They are wonderful but they are not permanent. This is not just about marriage, either. The way we love our friends and our families also requires commitment, honesty and sometimes, sheer grit. But that’s what love does.1
Sounds great but how in the world do we do that?
The Bible gives a clear picture of God’s love and the love we can experience and share:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 3:4-7
In no way am I suggesting that I (or anyone else) have loved perfectly. Just the idea of ‘keeps no record of wrongs’ is a mighty challenge for me. Apparently I have a great memory…at least in areas where I’ve been hurt or offended. The point, though, is that as I read the list above I am drawn to be that kind of person, to love my family, friends and even strangers with a patient, kind, thoughtful, persistent and hopeful love. I know the deep longing of my heart is that the people who care about me have a massive supply of patience, kindness and forgiveness for me. I need it…desperately.
If God only loved us with feelings…we would be in deep trouble. God’s love is intentional and active. My only hope of ever loving and being loved so profoundly is through God. He not only loves me this way but day-by-day teaches me to love the way He does. I know that the people who love me have been given to me as gifts. Their love heals, helps and presses me to be my best self.
If you are personally acquainted with God, I encourage you to tell Him…right now…that you’re grateful for His love in you and through you. Thank Him for the people who come to mind as you think about being loved. If you don’t feel connected to God enough to do that, might I encourage you to just think about Him…allow a little space to accept that you are unbelievably loved by Him. Let His love touch your heart and mind with healing and hope. His love truly is cement and its more than enough to build your entire life on.
1I know that there are situations of safety, abuse and abandonment that can ruin relationships. I have lived them. Not every situation can be endured in the hope it will change. If that is your situation I encourage you to get help. In this snapshot I’m talking about relationships that are discarded because we don’t ‘feel’ happy, loving, fun, etc.
Philippians 1:3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. [This would include ‘sisters’, btw!]
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Jeremiah 31:3 Long ago the Lord said to His people: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. [God spoke this to His chosen people who continually rejected and disobeyed Him. That is concrete love.[
Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! [If you struggle to love others as you want to, we are promised the very things we need through God’s Spirit in those who believe Him. This is healing and sustaining love.]