I always imagined a Valentine’s Day on a dark night and walk along the streets with lights and snow – I would have flowers and the chocolates in the heart shaped box that I wrapped in a bow myself. Yet somehow I feel like I first got this idea from something I saw on the side of a popcorn tin, but I’m not sure. I try to be romantic, but what is it in the end? If there is nothing deeper than the gesture, something more substantial and fulfilling, than it is nothing. It’s one thing to dream of giving flowers and stealing a kiss in the frosty night; it is another thing to make a kiss on a frosty night much more.
I woke up this morning to a flood of blog posts on my twitter feed for single women on Valentine’s Day: basically, to not be discouraged or frustrated and to be patient. Today is romance, and romance comes against the walls of our high expectations. It’s easy to blame Disney, but wasn’t it the desire in our hearts that placed it there in the first place? These stories of gallantry and distress go much deeper into history – the core never changed.
They say a man’s greatest need is to feel adequate, which makes his greatest fear inadequacy; likewise, a woman’s greatest need is to feel secure, which means her greatest fear is to feel insecure. When interested, this is where two people support each other the most, and when they are fighting, these are often the first roads to conflict: manipulating both adequacy and security. The response to avoid being hurt is to remain distant, cut losses if needed, and withdraw – the danger is to seek false attention, false security, and false romance.
I spent some time away at the beginning of the year to pray and think through some things, and I had been thinking about love and romance, and what it means in the world today. I suppose the concern should be that I would understand my role in it – but it is easy to be drawn into the complaints and arguments and find myself getting irritated. But I want to make a deliberate effort not to complain about things I cannot change, but to be thankful. I checked my twitter feed to find an article CCM artist Meredith Andrews posted on a couples adoption of a little girl from Uganda. This caught my attention.
“Fight for her. In a particularly dark and desperate moment those words came to me. “That’s the point. You are suppose to fight for her and never give up, because I fought for you and I didn’t stop until I had you as my own. I fight for my church. I fight for my bride. I fight for my children, and I will never stop. You will fight for her, because I have fought for you.” He fought for me. He pursued me. And he never stopped until He had me.
Honestly, I wrote this all on/for Valentine’s Day, to be the second installment the previous post, but I felt it missing something so I held it back (obviously, overshooting Valentine’s Day by a much). Two weeks ago I was listening to a pastor from Brazil speak on love as suffering – in the end, Christ came to do two essential things: serve and suffer, and if I am to love as Christ loved, than I am to approach love as the joy of service and suffering. Just as “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), so love is to lose as it is the expression of denial for the benefit of another; yet in the loss is gain and contentment: a paradox.
It’s easy to accept that the love of Christ is what brought Him to the cross, but wasn’t it the love for us that brought Him to this Earth? He loved the church not only that He died to redeem her (Ephesians 5:25-26), but that He lived to understand, and lives to intercede (1 John 2:1). When Jesus met someone, He always met them where they were and communicated how it most impacted them. When He healed the deaf-mute, He took him away from the crowds as this man had probably been a spectacle of mockery his entire life, and then Jesus essentially communicates healing through sign language. In the same, when Jesus came to Bethany at the grave of Lazarus, He responds to Martha’s question with a conversation, but when Mary asked an identical question, He weeps with her (John 11:21-35).
The process of our life is not the replication, but the reflection of this love. It’s easy to brush over 1 Corinthians 13 when love is called patient, enduring, and kind, without understanding that Paul isn’t implying that we can be these things, but to push us back to humility. We cannot love like Christ loved without a heart that seeks Him: to gain we must lose, to lose we must sacrifice, to love we must put others before our own needs. This gets deeper when we are called to “do things as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23); I no longer give to gain, but to worship; I worship not because God needs it, but because I do. I love because I need love, but I learn genuine care from Him.
If you were looking for the specifics of what this means… I haven’t the faintest idea. My mother told me long ago that a man can only fight for the heart of a woman that has chosen him, and I think that is a good place to start. There is so much deception in this world that only honesty can come to the truth, and in the truth to find mutual reaching. But this is what makes the suffering of love its risk. We can give everything we are, but there is no assurance things will remain. If we back away at this challenge, it isn’t love that motivates us; this is probably what Paul was getting at with the Corinthians. I think this is why the sacrifice of Christ is given as a model for men, because He gives regardless. He doesn’t tire. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t stop loving me. When I am tempted to limit myself, I come back to this love: surrender.
To the ladies – I don’t want to give much instruction because I am only here to work through my own issues and I would prefer advice for women to come from a woman, which is why I typically write to men or people in general; however, I found this to be worth the read. I’ll just leave it at that for now.
We’ve been born into the mindset of the most entitled and spoiled generation in the history of forever. We often feel we should receive and never give, and if giving, what we receive should be equal if not more, and that possessions and relationships exist in our life to manipulated. These expectations of what we feel we deserve are exactly what often inhibits us from receiving the gifts God would have us, though I speak generally. Our expectations must first be exhausted. Our patience must be exceeded. Until we come to this point of setting aside our desires we will fail over and over to see what true desire looks like.
“I realize that a great deal of my consternation has been rooted in arrogance. I complain to Jesus: ‘okay, You’re the eternal Son of God, living for all eternity, You created the universe, but why would You know any better than I do how my life should be going?’ […] We’re not God, but we have such delusions of grandeur that our self-righteousness and arrogance sometimes have to be knocked out of our heart by God’s delays. […] The answer is to trust Jesus.” – Tim Keller, King’s Cross
I cannot vouch for the rest of the country, but spring is coming over North Carolina. The mornings are cool and foggy and the days are mild and sunny. It brings back a lot of really good memories into my life of being a child. It’s nice. Spring and summer bring about closeness, and they bring about the desire for love and romance. I sat outside of Starbucks yesterday doing some work and people felt friendlier: they smiled more. Recently, the conversation of love, leadership, and children has been rising to the surface almost everywhere I look, and I believe God is trying to teach me something.
This doesn’t come across in most circles that like to do the song and dance and play the game, but my first priority in life is what God would have of me. This doesn’t mean I sit in the right side of my corner booth, scared of the world, but it means I filter what I do through His lens the best I can. The culture promotes those who don’t take a strong stand and those who are self-centered, but it is way more important to me that I am God’s man, then I appear attractive to anyone.
I can only push these issues back to Him and hope that when I give my life to Him, He’ll meet my needs: which He knows.
The concept of the traditional love story seems to be more and more out of line. Dating follows these lines more often then not: meet, go out, have fun, go out again, have fun, get involved physically and emotionally, secrets emerge and hearts are broken. An older man randomly gave me dating advice two months ago: marry someone who has been your friend for a long time and has grown with you and has seen you in different stages in your life. and it is true. We grow apart when we separate ourselves, but when two grow together, they become inter-twined because they actually know one another more than the surface. But, we become jaded in love because we allow ourselves to fall over bad examples over and over. This is sad because: for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son… (John 3:16), and if it was for love that God came, and marriage His chosen picture, then love is the most sacred act of worship and owes the highest reverence.
As a note, this doesn’t mean one person must know another their whole lives. The lasting aspect of love is found in similar views on faith, family, and convictions: which can only be understood over time. People are great at pretending in the short run, but proving it means living it, and living it means reality. That is what makes love last.
I was driving down the road the other day and listening to Chip Ingram talk about marriage and he was reading from Ephesians and something really hit me hard and blew my mind in a way I had never considered before…
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her […] that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. – Ephesians 5:25, 27
For years, I have misunderstood this verse. I have focused on the sacrifice of life, but not the purpose. If I marry, I accept I may have to give my life for her: I will without question; however, it is unlikely that I will be required to. This verse appears to be more that it must be a man’s utmost desire to cherish her, love her, learn her, and understand how to draw her out and affirm her. She no longer needs to fear any kind of fall or back lash of what the world thinks, because her every effort is sheltered in his sufficient love. This does not mean that she is incompetent or that he is perfect: they are made for each other, and as humans we cannot sanctify one other, but I cannot think of a greater sacrifice a man can give to a woman then to: through leading, serve: as Christ did.
Granted, keep in mind that I am far more concerned with what God asks of a man right now.
The point of the fairy tale is a prince who only seeks his princess and takes her with him. It is not he who transforms her, but rather the presence of unconditional love that allows them both to flourish as it creates an umbrella for them both in the world. Or look to our marriage ceremonies. The groom waits anxiously for his bride, to catch her eyes as she is revealed in the beauty of the wedding. She is revealed to him: and he accepts the responsibility God would ask of the him as a husband. He wears the band as a sign of her fidelity (not his own) and she wears her band as a sign of his fidelity (not her own). The beauty of this story is that it is a promise that is place din the trust of the other: which is why the only Biblical ways from marriage involve betrayal and not loss of interest. This places complete faith and trust in the other.
Why am I even bringing thing up?
For one, it is everywhere, which means God is getting my attention and teaching my heart to love through patience; however, love is an act of worship and so it must be taken seriously, yet beautifully. Love is so mishandled today and we accept it that way. People fall in and out of love all the time, but it shouldn’t be this way. The first step to fixing our world is fixing our hearts, which means tuning them to His and listening; a general life principle is that lies always stay as close to the truth as possible, which means they are often confused. This is only one half of the story though…
Dr. Seuss is internationally acclaimed for his life time dedication to the imaginative and understood world of children. I can appreciate this. Personally, I love children. The innocence of a child is something that is both profound and amazing. But we overlook the value of children and their inherit worth. We don’t see what Jesus saw when He said: “let the children come to Me and do not hinder them…”
The more I think about love, the more I realize I have been looking at it the wrong way. Maybe it is just God pressing things into my heart, or maybe I’m just paying attention to more important things. As adults, we falter so much in love because we stop seeing the end in the beginning, but only focus on now. Someone told me a simple question that has revolutionized my approach to romance: as I think about it, approach it, and write it. Here it is…
Would you be proud to have a daughter [son] exactly like her [him]?
How often do we like to justify bad behavior in an attempt to strain out the good in people? I am bad about this in general because I want to find the best in every one, but this question allows me to objectively side step my hopes for who people should be in light of who they are: “yes, you may be an alright woman, but I would not like my daughter to be like you, no thanks.” (that may be a little harsh though, and I’d tell them another way because I’m not a dick).
The chances are good that marriages will produce children, and children will be a mixture of both parts: what they are taught, and who the parents were before the children were born will define the child. This perspective allows us to differentiate between characteristics that are not acceptable and habits that seem annoying at the time, but may be good in the long run. The more I consider this simple question the more I realize what I want from my life and myself. I want to know I am giving my children the absolute best that I am able.
Not only is this good practical advice, but I think it is good Biblical advice as well. it isn’t the only thing we ought look for when we approach another person, but it allows us additional clarity to do the right thing. Not only does it fit what God wants from marriage and what is healthy, but challenges me to become a better man: to work with those in my life with justice and kindness and honors, and deal with everything appropriately.
This has been one of many thoughts recently, but there is more depth then I am willing to go into: half because I have been waiting and thinking, and half because I have been writing, and half because a friend posted “Wait for Me” by Rebecca St. James on facebook and it took me back 2002 (yes, there are three halves, get over it!!). To honor and follow God means that we must be able to filter through the static and hear His voice, to understand what love is and who we choose to allow in our lives, and what He wants from us if He calls us to this path. Push away the world’s perception and corruption of love and return to the innocence and purity of it.