Friday, July 29, 2011

The Will to Love

What does commitment look like?

When is commitment most visible?

Where is commitment often seen?

Why is commitment so difficult?

Who has commitment issues?

As you know, I discussed three key components which I believe are critical for any couple to experience the biblical model of love:
  1. Commitment
  2. Strength
  3. Endurance
Many of us recognize what commitment isn’t, but do we really understand what commitment is?

I was standing on my patio deck the other night thinking about commitment when the conversation between Jesus and Peter got me to thinking:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.

Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.

The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.1

Jesus was commanding Peter to nurture those whom he now called “lambs” and “sheep”.

I use to think that commitment was something you simply acknowledge. I think I associated it with the act of joining a local church, or asking someone, “Will you marry me?” But commitment isn’t one defining moment in a person’s life. It is a succession of moments, intertwined, and linked together over a lifetime. It is an investment of me into the life of another human being outwardly express as love, devotion, or dedication. I’ve shared my opinion of Cinema Love, a love that lasts for thirty minutes (not counting commercials). In Cinema Love, there are no problems which cannot be resolved in thirty minutes. Real Love requires a man and woman to exceed that thirty minute threshold, coming face-to-face with issues in their relationship. Family, money, jealousy, lust, abuse, illness, unemployment, and career are just a few of the areas of potential conflict men and women face in a relationship.

Many of the blogs I read are written by women who have roles defined as wife, mother, widow, divorcee, child of an aging parent, parent of a child with special needs, or a single woman. It’s interesting to me how we tend to compartmentalize our life as defined by our role or identity. I never felt truly secure in my place as husband. Perhaps, I never believed my position was secure. Now although this wasn’t true and I never acknowledged it, I still believed a lie at a subconscious level. And that my friend is what I discovered: How susceptible I was to believing a lie, particularly when it concerns me. While I don’t fault my ex-wife for my insecurity, it would have helped tremendously had I acknowledged my fear and discussed it with her. This was many years ago, and I certainly wasn’t the man I am today; I was immature and not emotionally or intellectually prepared for marriage or fatherhood. I would have benefitted from a mentor, but I’m not certain that I could have submitted my ego at that time.

I suppose if we break it down chronologically, commitment began with the spoken word of God:

And God said,Let there be light,and there was light.2

And a voice from heaven said,This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.3

In the Garden, we then see the commitment of Adam expressed as:
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…4

But commitment goes beyond what you or I say. What I say is an expression of me.

Unlike God, I do not always uphold my word. This is because I fail to understand that my word represents me.

When God spoke the words, “Let there be light...5

He understood that if His word failed to produce light, it would mean that He wasn’t accurately reflecting who He is. But God will never fail to accurately reflect Himself; He doesn’t need a mirror as we do. Please understand that I’m speaking as an unspiritual man using his intelligence would think. As Christians, we all know that God’s word cannot fail because He is God. This means that an intelligent, logically thinking person would have to surmise that God upholds His word because He is God. It also implies a certain responsibility on the part of God simply because He is God:
  1. He cannot lie
  2. He cannot fail
  3. He cannot cease to be God
God has established the principle that one’s word must reflect the character and nature of the one speaking. If my word fails to be honorable, it is because I do not honor what I say. Nothing we say is insignificant, particularly when it comes to love. So many people have spoken the words, “I promise to love, honor, and cherish as long as I live, so help me God”, but they’ve failed to uphold their word.

In the heat of the battle some soldiers experience fear and the desire to run away from conflict. Those who are committed face conflict because they understand their purpose and role. Many people when describing what went wrong in their marriage confess, “We just grew apart over the years.

But commitment doesn’t create distance between a man and woman; it actually enables a man and woman to forge ahead, accurately establishing a bond of unity that reflects their love.

I regret saying this, but I was always committed to my career at a level which I never fully grasped in my marriage; yet I thought I was fully committed to both. We can easily see the level of commitment someone else has, but too often we don’t see our own level of commitment from those same set of lenses. I’m certain my ex-wife realized this and found it frustrating. Unfortunately, by the time I realized it, she no longer needed me fully committed.

I’ve come to realize that it not the things which occur in my life that define me, it’s my response to those things. I’ve also come to realize that reasons and explanations mean nothing in the aftermath of a failed marriage. Who was at fault is a question that requires no answer. Two people joined together, and two people separated.

I think about Paul’s reflection on Israel’s rejection of Christ (Romans 9:1-5). Paul didn’t curse Israel for their actions, he didn’t want to see Israel punished; he prayed for Israel. I don’t know if my ex-wife prays for me, but I pray God’s blessings over her life; I want her to be genuinely happy.

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

  1. John 21:15-17, NIV
  2. Genesis 1:3, NIV
  3. Matthew 3:17, NLTB
  4. Genesis 2:23, NIV
  5. Genesis 1:3, NIV
  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. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  6. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  7. 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
  8. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


Charlotte said...

We certainly do live and learn. I wish I knew some of the things I know now when I was much younger. I know I would have done many things differently.
Thank you for sharing.

Patti Hanan said...

Your insight on commitment is powerful. I appreciate how you describe it as not a one time decision but a succession of moments, intertwined, and linked together over a lifetime. I also appreciate your transparency in describing how you have learned from past mistakes. We are all learners, and we have all made mistakes. Thanks be to God that he can redeem them and make us stronger as we grow in Him. Thank you for sharing.

sarah said...

it's weird how we learn from going through the painful stuff. I wish like Charlotte I knew what I know now....earlier. Hope your weekend is a good one.

Whidbey Woman said...

I agree with the above comments. Thank you for sharing your reflections on commit
tment for Spiritual Sundays!

Peggy (mazmagi) said...

Blessings MTJ... I am so blessed my your wonderful LOVE series and now this one on commitment! Guarding these precious truths in my heart and thanking you for being candid and bold enough to write from your heart and life... putting it all out there.Saving this one also and I think I'm sending it on to my other half with a prayer for salvation.

Your Most Powerful words in hind's sight:

"I’ve come to realize that it not the things which occur in my life that define me, it’s my response to those things. I’ve also come to realize that reasons and explanations mean nothing in the aftermath of a failed marriage. Who was at fault is a question that requires no answer. Two people joined together, and two people separated."

...and that makes irreconcilable differences, but God can take the impossible and changed the unredeemed into the Redeemed! Praise the Name of Jesus!

May God take the broken pieces and lessons learned and redeem them and restore according to His will(and where's that man with the beautiful ending in PRAYER?)Y'all know I come by now for the prayers...

Sending my very best wishes and prayer as you continue in your commitment to Christ... Peace,

Sharon said...

I like Charlotte's comment - live and learn. I have experienced the pain of a failed marriage. I am glad to say that it was a relatively amicable situation, but it still hurt both of us deeply. I see as I've gotten older (and hopefully a little wiser) that part of the problem was indeed a lack of commitment when the "going got tougher."

Praise God that He never fails like we do. That His commitment is unchangeable forever. When we enter into His covenant, nothing we feel or don't feel toward Him will change the truth of our salvation.

I guess that's why they call Him the ROCK!

Thanks for sharing, as always, very profound thoughts.


Pamela said...

A beautiful post on commitment. I've bookmarked it. I think it's a post I need to read from time to time. I like the thought that commitment began with God.