Friday, July 8, 2011

An Examination of Love

I was thinking about something a woman said to me on the subject of love:

Maybe there is such thing as true love. That cinema love, that lasts forever. I don't know, but I’m willing to find out. I know I’ve said a few things about not believing in love....

I know Hollywood studios can release an updated version of the movie, “Love Story” that gets women weeping tears of unending joy, and causes men to sit uncomfortably while our spouses squeeze the circulation from our hand. But really, does anyone really want “that cinema love”? A portrayal of love that is so lacking dimension and depth, that it's as flat as a three-day old warm soda. I don't know about you, but, I've yet to find anyone who can get “hyped” about being “in cinema love”. No, people I know want the “real deal”. Even if they have no idea what the “real deal” is, they know it isn't “cinema love”. I call it the “real deal” because it HAS to DEAL with the REAL issues and complexities of a loving relationship.

I’ve had time now to reflect upon the pain of a marriage that nosed-dived into the abyss of failure. I’ve tried to understand what went wrong only to come to the conclusion that I needed to accept the words my wife shared with me over a year ago, “I want to live alone”. Initially I assumed that she was telling me that I needed to change, but I came to realize that she simply no longer wanted to be married to me. The day she left began with her saying, “we need to talk…” I asked her what was wrong, and the words, “I’m moving out” was the beginning and end of our talk.

I admit that I never imagined a life without her, and yet, here am I, alone. I miss being in love, sharing conversations, laughter, the hugs and kisses. I miss having her as my traveling companion and confidant, but I've come to accept that what we had is dead. Accepting this fact is the first step I'm making as I traverse the desert with God as my guide. So now I’m studying the biblical model of marriage and love. I will write about this topic until I run out of words. It is not a feeble attempt to persuade my ex-wife that I’m a changed man. I just want to be prepared so that when the opportunity to love again is revealed; that I'm ready, willing and committed to loving until the last breath escapes my lungs.

From the comments that many have shared, and my own reflections, I’ve come to realize that a husband must love his wife for the woman she is. She may never become what he hoped for, but that isn’t why a man loves his wife. A wife must love her husband for the man he is. He may never become what she hoped for, but that isn’t why a woman loves her husband.

I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons why one marries a person. Beauty, wealth, prestige, and recognition are just a few, but the bible says, without love, I'm just making noises which have no purpose or meaning (1 Corinthians 13:1). So in my quest to understand the biblical model of marriage, I found myself looking at the biblical model of love. Just as there are a myriad number of reasons why people get married, there are an infinite number of reasons to love. But in examining the biblical model, I see a consistent pattern of characteristics which are revealed in the life of husbands and wives. These characteristics form an impenetrable barrier that is impervious to destruction, deception, and the death of love. I believe there are three characteristics consistently revealed in a loving relationship:
  1. The commitment of love
  2. The strength of love
  3. The endurance of love
The Commitment of Love: You’re watching a romantic movie with your spouse and suddenly she asks the question so many guys have heard before:

Why do guys have a problem with commitment?

It’s a timeless question that so many women seek an answer to, while many men try to dodge. Some guys will feign ignorance and ask:

What’s the problem with the way things are? What do you want from me?

A wife needs to know that you’ll be there with her through every moment; she needs that assurance that only comes with your willingness to commit to her. She needs to know that nothing will supplant her in your life. As strange as it may sound, guys need to know that you’re just as committed to them. Guys may be hesitant to talk about or acknowledge their commitment, but you’ll find no shortage of men who seek a wife or potential wife who will be committed to them.

It’s not a gender issue, it’s a commitment issue.

The Greek word pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o) means, to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, it means to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):--believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Commitment is the belief and acknowledgement that proclaims faith and trust in another.

Commitment does not require validation or proof, although we may often seek it. One does not earn a commitment. No! Commitment, like grace is extended from an act of love. I remember discussing my relationship with my ex and indicating that I’d grown frustrated by not only failing to measure up to who I needed to be in her mind, but the constant reminder that I had yet again failed. It was for me, a no-win scenario that reminds me of the frustration Paul wrote about in Romans 7:24. My ex-wife looked at me and pleaded, “Am I not worth the effort? I should be valued to that level that you would want to do just that!” And although she was right about being valued and worthy, she was wrong to hold me to a code of law which she herself couldn’t live by. She wanted me to earn her trust while she believed that she had established a bank account of trust that I in turn should go to when I needed to make a commitment withdrawal.

Commitment is given by one person to another. You cannot store up commitment. For me, commitment is like manna, it has an expiration date; each new day brings about a renewal of my commitment. I do however believe that each new day that my commitment is renewed brings about a greater level of understanding and appreciation of how much one values their spouse.

Commitment not only values and appreciates a spouse, commitment accepts them for who they are, rather than whom my thoughts imagine or seek them to be. So many wives and women have written me saying, “I want to be accepted for the woman I am. Although I’m flawed, I still need to know he (i.e. my husband) accepts me. I need that.

I need to pose this question to my male comrades:

Can you envision for a moment how powerfully enhanced your marriage becomes when your wife becomes aware that you not only accept her for the woman she is, but you do so from the place of commitment?

She becomes aware that you’re there, and not just for a season. You are there…periodend of discussion. Men understand words such as power, victory, and competition. That’s what your commitment brings in the marriage relationship with your wife.

Your commitment liberates you to love her.

Your commitment empowers you to love her.

Your commitment builds success in your love for her.

Through commitment, you gain an ally (i.e. your wife) who helps you:
  1. Liberate your marriage from one of legalistic guidelines to spirit-filled freedom.
  2. Empower your marriage to remain fresh, alive, passionate, and loving.
  3. Achieve success in your marriage with a daily transformation of a greater emphasis and commitment to love.
Commitment is the basis for not only loving your spouse; it is the daily affirmation that you love your spouse for who they are.

We sing the song, Just as I Am because the lyrics describe our need to come to Jesus as a flawed person; sin has imprisoned my life within its ruthless walls.

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Although Jesus has already shed His blood for me, still I ask, Lord, bid me to come to thee. Christ has committed Himself to me through the ultimate act of dying on the cross for my sins, but still I ask for that assurance, bid me to come to thee. It is what Peter asked when he and the other disciples saw Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:25-33). It was as if their eyes betrayed them. They witnessed the impossible. In their mind, what they saw defied reason and understanding. Yet this same Jesus fed five thousand earlier that same day (Matthew 14:14-21). Jesus didn’t scold Peter for making this request, he simply said, “Come!” (Matthew 14:29) Jesus lived a life of commitment; a commitment to love the Father, and a commitment to love each believer. Loving one’s spouse requires that same commitment from you.

Almighty God and Father,

As I try to understand the biblical model of love, I see there is no greater love than the love You bestow upon those whom the bible calls the children of God. What could be greater than the sacrifice of Your own Son Jesus Christ? I don't seek mere knowledge Lord, because knowledge would simply puff me up; I seek to be obedient through a conscious committment. I pray not only for myself, but for others hurt by the acts of ignorance and selfishess; choosing what only pleases me. There is a greater joy in obedience. There is a greater purpose in service to You. There is a higher love in my committment. May we who call on the name of Jesus discover greater height, depth, length, and breath in our lives and in the lives of those we love. A life that's committed to love.

Whether married or single, we have the capacity to love one another; not simply in word but in the life we're committed to live. May the love we share represent and relfect You through our committed thoughts, words, and actions. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sunday's

  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  8. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  9. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  10. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


Sharon said...

Is it possible for you to see me standing up and cheering out loud? YES! You have hit the nail on the head on so many issues here.

Commitment is a huge, huge component in any loving relationship - but especially in a marriage. Speaking as a wife, I am tremendously freed to be who I am by the assurance (and the reassurance) that my husband "isn't going anywhere." Only in that comfort and security can I truly be my sometimes wonderful, sometimes flawed self. I can never take his commitment lightly or for granted - but I can treasure it for its meaning. It's a gift that I hold closely to my heart.

And may I continue to learn how to give this sort of committed love back to him. I want him to know, too, that I'm here for the long haul.

May the Lord continue to model committed love for us in its perfect form. And may our human relationships be enhanced by our committed obedience to follow Him.


sarah said...

life sometimes hurts so bad....but something I'm finding out is that He uses those bad things to make us strong and then He uses us to make other's strong. I really appreciate you MTJ.....hope you have a great weekend.

Wanda said...

Really appreciate the depth of study and reflection you are sharing with us. As a single person, I want to discover what it takes to have a successful marriage. Blessings to you.

Ella said...

Your post is quite powerful. I am thankful that you and other men like you exist who understand beyond the flat "cinema love" and are actively engaged in or pursuing the "real deal love." The latter offers the deepest riches when one is willing to go into that space of real love, as you so eloquently spoke of.

We can't draw our understanding of love via the cinema, because if we do then we learn a lot of unhealthy and unloving behaviors, such as: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Love can only be displayed in the present. Meaning, I cannot love someone for who he may become.....but rather who he is at present. If that is not enough, then that person is not right for me, or I not right for him. I learned this after many painful repetitions of my own false expectations of another.

As a single mom, who wants to meet a man ready for a "real" relationship that grows to marriage, your post is a wonderful reminder that stirs in me hope that men also believing/wanting the same exist.

Looking forward to reading more as you delve into the characteristics of love. I would like to suggest also talking about the behaviors of love. We all need concrete examples of what that sounds like, looks like....for instance. In a relationship, what does commitment look like? What does strength? What does endurance?
God Bless you and your continued growth! As you clearly are pursuing God and His opening of your heart and mind.

Charlotte said...

It is interesting to read about love and lost love from one who has lived through it. I hope your insight will help others.