Love is not a feeling.
It’s not an emotion, it’s not a quickening of the pulse or a sense of lightness and joy. It’s a decision, and we as a society need to stop confusing the product of love for love itself. If love is a feeling, then love can be influenced by all sorts of crazy things. Drinking coffee, the weather, or how stressful our jobs are would all influence how much we love each other. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would like to be in more control of my ability to love than that. I don’t want to love, or not love someone, based on my diet!
Let me put it this way: Most of us can say, “I love my parents,” and rightly so, they’ve done a lot to make you who you are today. But when you think about the love you have for your parents, think also about that time you had the huge fight, or when they told you that you couldn’t do that thing that you wanted to do more than anything else in the whole world! Did you not love your parents then? I think we would all say that, yes, we did love our parents, even though they were not making us feel good about it; We just needed time to get over whatever it was and see the truth of it, or something like that.
Or let me give you an example this way: When I was 17 year old I was shipped off to boarding academy by my evil parents. (More like I was begging to leave a year earlier but they wouldn’t let me…) Up until this point I had only ever gone to one small school (80 or so students), and lived in the same smallish town, so suddenly being in a place full of people I didn’t know, and a lot more of them to boot, was a real shocker to my underdeveloped social skills. I met a girl. :) She was cute, and smart, and funny, and I fell in love with her, or at least, I thought I had. We started dating after about a month or so, and immediately the “fun” began. By the end of our first week of official relationship we had already broken up and gotten back together! Neither of us understood what it meant to love someone, so we would let feeling dictate our relationship. Now, I’m not trying to dodge all the blame here, but have you ever let a teenage girl’s feelings dictate anything? We were “on again, off again” in the worst possible sense of the phrase. We would have amazing weeks where nothing would go wrong, then one of us would explode at the other and we would call it all off, only to be lured back by the positive feelings we would have a few days (or hours) later. We went on like that for two years, and I would have to say that I have never experienced anything so stressful, hurtful, and destructive as that relationship was.
The breakthrough came when I realized that I would always love her. Even to this day I can still say that I love her, albeit in a drastically changed way. But I realized that I was able to love her enough to walk away, that feelings didn’t have the right to dictate who or what I loved, and that getting out of such a dangerous relationship was the most loving thing I could do! I made a decision to love her, and by making that decision, away from whatever my current feelings for her were, I was able to make the right choice.
Now that I know what to look for, I see that this idea of love as a feeling is a rampant, and dangerous, idea throughout or society. What is going to keep a marriage together when she is struggling to be a new mother and he is only home to sleep for seven hours between 10pm and 5am? They hardly have time to spend together, alone or otherwise, to keep those romantic fires burning. A relationship based on feeling is going to collapse under the combined weight of unmet expectations that just pile up on top of one another!
Now at this point you might be saying, “But a relationship without those feelings is a dead husk, no fun at all,” and you would be completely correct. First, I would say that we are never going to be completely rational beings, and no matter how hard we try, feelings will impact our decisions. We eat things that taste good and we do things we enjoy BECAUSE of the feelings they give us. In fact, most of our relationships with other people are founded initially on how we feel about that person. This is not a bad thing, feelings have their place in our lives and serve an important role in our psychological health. If you are in a relationship in which you have never felt feelings of love, romance, or attraction, then that is a dead relationship, and you need to get out.
But FOUNDING a relationship on those feelings is like building a house on a sand dune. A healthy relationship will naturally produce those feelings we long for so much, they will flow out of making a decision to love someone ever day. But some days those feelings are going to not be there. Some days they are going to be buried under work, kids, school, distance. On those days you must look to the decision you made, trust in yourself that you aren’t an idiot, bring up those memories of times past, decide that those feelings you have felt weren’t a lie, and keep on keeping on.
Love is a decision.
Simple truths are always the best. Their oft’ heard lines wearing smooth the pebbles of our minds. Turning simple rocks into simple gems, appreciated only by small children, and old men.
Something that has been intruding into my thoughts lately is this idea of Instant History. The fact that, if you don’t experience something within your lifetime, no matter if it happened right before you were born, it is thought of as infinitely in the past.
Let’s take one of the most traumatic moments in relatively recent history. September 11. All of us who lived through that day here in the USA can remember where we were, what we were doing, how we learned the news. Strange details get seared into our minds eye. I remember my dad practically kicking my door down and dragging me downstairs to listen to the radio (We were on the west coast, so it was very early there ,and we had no TV). I remember going to school and watching the news coverage, and then I remember how absolutely quiet it was at my dad’s office when I arrived after school.
But for anyone who was born even up to two years before, in 1999, wouldn’t have any of that. To them, the attacks on 9/11 are as far back in history as WWII, or the Moon Landing, or pretty much any other historical event you would care to name. They become Instant History, stretching infinitely back into the past.
Human psyche can only truly understand what it has, itself, experienced. Our culture, or our technology, or our history, is all incredibly transient according to the human mind. If we were to suddenly be nuked back to the stone age, within 25 years hardly anyone would be left who actually remembered what life was like before. Within 50 years the world would have only one or two incredibly lucky old people who knew. No one else would care. Humanity would have moved on, not just because it needed to survive, but also because it would be totally incapable of understanding the past.
I have recently started reading Spiritual Gifts by Ellen White. I am scarcely two paragraphs into the first chapter after the introduction and I am already struck by a thought that I feel is worth sharing.
The first part talks about Satan’s fall from heaven. One thing that has always confused me is the phrase, “There was war in heaven.” Why would there need to be war in heaven? Couldn’t God just cause Satan to suddenly be expelled? Well the answer to that question is yes, God could have expelled Satan with a thought, so why didn’t he?
Belief in God is always going to engender a struggle on our part as human beings. We must fight against Satan and his corrupting influence at every level of our lives. When Satan brought his grievances against God into the heavenly court it was the first time that the angels had been confronted with sin. As soon as sin entered the courts of God under Satan’s wings a struggle began. Satan tried to convince other angels to follow him in overthrowing God on his thrown. And then there was war in heaven.
The angels, for the first time in their existence, had to struggle for what they believed was right. They had to fight back evil! If God had just undone Satan with a thought then the angels would have been denied a choice in how to respond to evil. By allowing the loyal angels to struggle with, and eventually overcome Satan, God caused them to make a choice, and then be deeply and personally invested in the choice they made. Once Satan had been expelled from heaven each and every loyal angel could go back to the throne of God with conviction in the path that they had chosen.
Of course, it’s the same with us even to this day. Our belief will never come without struggles of one sort or another, and we must constantly be choosing God and seeking to follow His will and way. Over time this builds in us a sort of spiritual muscle, and by exercising that muscle we get stronger and more confidant in our belief in God. So the next time you are facing trials in life, be glad! Not only will God be with you the whole way, picking you up when you fall, but you will come out the other side with more experience with which to fight the devil, and a deeper understanding of God’s love and awesome power.
Heh, found this in an old journal and I don’t even remember writing it…
In the woods I sang with flute.
With a flute I sang
and the woods sang with me.
The trees with their rustling
and the flies with their buzzing
The woodpecker played percussion
on an old beach tree.
And the sun ran the lights for our most serene rockshow.
Have you ever noticed parents do that thing where, whenever one of their kids does something stupid, they disavow them and usually yell, “Dear, look at what YOUR child did!”
Well I was translating the Bible for class the other day and… well check this out:
Exodus 20:2 reads, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
But if you skip forward to right after the Children of Israel start getting all crazy with the golden calf you get Exodus 32:7, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.”
So that’s where our parents get that!
I tasted of success, and it was unto me as a pinnacle soaring up into the obscuring clouds of infinity.
If I were to ask the question, “What does God style himself as most often,” I would probably get the common answer of, “Our Father.” Now there are a lot of interesting connotations that can stem from this idea, but one of them that came up to me recently is the idea of punishment.
Most parents, I would probably even say all good parents, never punish their children beyond their own means to restore. In other words, what mom or dad takes away, mom or dad can give as well. If little Jimmy was irresponsible while using the family car, we would consider it perfectly acceptable for his parents to take that privilege away from him. However, things that a parent can’t fix are usually not acceptable forms of punishment. Yes mom or dad my have the power to give or take away food from their child, but they cannot restore lost nutrients and energy. They do not want to damage their children in a way that they cannot fix, so they don’t starve them!
When Lazarus was dying Jesus’ disciples were appalled by his apparent lack of compassion in the matter. They could not understand why Jesus would sit by and let one of his closest friends die! They were looking at the situation from a human perspective, seeing death as something that they couldn’t control, so therefore must fear and respect. Jesus however, was looking at this from the perspective of a God on earth. He wasn’t worried because he had power over death, and knew that by letting Lazarus die, and then bringing him up from the grave, he would be able to show his power in a way that no one could deny.
Sometimes we look at the punishments of God as horrible things that we cannot reconcile with our picture of God as a loving creator. The thing we must realize is that God has the power to restore everything He destroys, to raise up everything that He brings low. What would be unjust punishment from man’s perspective becomes a force for change and positive outcomes from God’s perspective. When we read of Uzzah touching the ark and being struck dead all of us recoil a little. But the fact of the matter is that God knew Uzzah’s heart. He has the power to bring Uzzah back to life any time that he wants and He will do so at the judgment day. He knew the kinds of difficulties that killing Uzzah would cause at that time and for all time. But He also knew the things that would come about from not striking Uzzah dead.
Just like children get angry at their parents for what they see as unjust punishments so too will we get angry and question the Lord when we feel that He has unjustly punished. What we must remember is that, like children, we will eventually “grow up” in the Lord and become able to understand why God chose to do what He did.
Never write a letter in any other way than that of love and goodwill, otherwise you are liable to go back and read yourself a fool.