Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
Have you ever heard that ” Love is a promise, not a feeling”? Hard to believe when the world about you is filled with songs that say the opposite these days. “Whatever feels right at the moment” is what you hear most often. But when does a broken heart ever “feel” right? When does a “broken” conscience ever let you sleep really peacefully without having to do something distracting to make it go away? Entertainment, addictions, even the approval of the those around you who aren’t really looking through what you’re doing will not eventually make up for what’s missing: real love. The kind of love that only God has made us to want and need in order to feel whole. This love is deep and abiding, encompassing the real passion that its poor substitute tries to get along without in this world. It is relentless in its pursuit of our heart and all the distractions and the false relationships we heap up between us and it show that we cannot get along without it. It won’t let us go in spite of our bad behavior. Why?
Because real love is a promise, not a feeling. God created us to express love that way. Expressing anything less, no matter what temporary heights you reach, robs everyone, including yourself. You see, God, made us to be highly motivated to want the promise much more than just the feeling alone. It is the only way to make the whole thing last and get every last best drop of those precious feelings to be had from it! It is the only way to feel safe in our relationships and with ourselves. Break the promise and every thing thereafter is set up to fall short and be suspect from even the tiniest dread of betrayal. That tiny speck of untrustworthiness has the power to wreck the desperate unity sought after in all that tries to follow. And no amount of “lifestyle compatibility” will change that. Such a choice overlooks the whole focus of achievement that true marriage is about: to reconcile the two into one. It also overlooks the betrayal of one’s own flesh which has already been united with another in a way beyond what can be explained in mere language. Running from a promise to keep searching for or to try to sustain “being in love”, while boasted by some, is never really proven to happen.
What happens is a looking for someone who will let us get “our way”, hypes us up with high emotions based on physical attraction first and we settle for calling that “love”. But is this real love? “No emotion, any more than a wave, can long retain its form”, said Henry Ward Beecher. Real love, as God reminds and show us, “does not look for its own interests.” (1 Cor. 13). It is a rock steady thing, “more stern and splendid than mere kindness” (1). And with that thought, it emphatically puts to rest our often soul pursuit, especially in this country, of our own “happiness”, a happiness that in truth is really more about satisfying our own pleasure and not the spiritual needs of another. Sadly, it is rare these days to marry because someone needs taken care of (book of Ruth) out of love. Books, movies, TV, the culture around us keep telling us “its all about emotional chemistry first” and then maybe a conditional commitment which often is forsaken on the flimsiest pretext of “not being in love” anymore. So is “falling in love” a bad thing then?
As C. S. Lewis reassures us: “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God… “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
When we give our promise in marriage, it is not something our body takes lightly either. Chemical transactions in both the brain and the body are taking place when we give a promise and leaving signatures throughout as evidence. These remain like markers long after what appears to be broken. Because these markers are not merely ignited by feeling, they are reinforced by promise down to the very DNA of our flesh. We may try to run away from what is internal, try to replace it, but the traces remain and call to us. The Holy Spirit of God who is invested in and wants us to have His best also calls to this internal to remind us of that promise as well. He knows what the result will be if we disobey it and Him. (Hebrews 13:4. Malachi 2:16)
So we are given such strength to keep that promise by a Maker who knows that we can…even under the most trying of circumstances (Hosea). God demonstrated that it was possible to love even the adulterous nation of Israel and by such love to lead them back to restoration of their covenant marriage.
As the brother of leading Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, explained to him on the eve of his own marriage: “Write this down and don’t ever forget it. If you will to love someone, you can.”
Till next time.
God bless you.