So here’s a post about love on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve only been married six months, so this post isn’t what you think.
I got the inspiration to write this from a short excerpt I heard on NPR yesterday. Man, how I wish I remembered her name (and if you happened to have heard it and know what I’m talking about, please let me know!), but said woman was a writer, and on the segment, she read a piece of one of her works that talked about love. Specifically, about the fact that the majority of her life she’s experienced it…single…and consequently, out of love. She spoke a lot about Hollywood’s portrayal of romantic love. You know, “the butterflies” and “the feels.” I was intrigued, because, well, I’m in love. And I certainly do “feel” it, but I know better than that, don’t I?
She spoke about the history of romantic love, namely the history of marriage—and how back in the day, people got married for all sorts of reasons…reasons other than “love.” Back in the day, people got married for money or land or because their parents forced them to. This also intrigued me, because I know it’s true, considering I’ve spent the last few months studying the history of Judaism, specifically in Palestine in the 1st century. A lot of times when you read about marriage, historically, love had little to do with it.
This woman also spoke about how she had fallen a victim to Hollywood’s elevated (and outright ‘romanticized,’ for lack of a better word) view of marriage. She admitted that her buying into this is the very reason many relationships in her life hadn’t worked out. “They just didn’t measure up to my idea of love, based on what I had seen and heard about,” she confessed. And I get that. Really, I do. Before getting married, I too, was single, and I too, had dated…comparing each relationship to the ever-playing reel of passion and emotion that paraded in my head (and heart). I lived in my very own fantasyland. And the worst part? I didn’t even know it.
Well, until I had to figure out what this whole “having a relationship with Jesus” thing was all about.
(I know, I know, you thought I was going to talk about my own marriage, didn’t you?)
I began doing the “Christian thing” in February of 2012 (exactly two days before Valentine’s Day, may I add). From one second to the other, I felt like my eyes were opened to this new world of faith and Jesus (whoever he was). It was exciting. I had so much learn. I began reading books (yes, specifically the Bible), watching videos, meeting new people who believed and lived by this thing. It was fascinating. I was hooked. I was infatuated. I was in love. I would go to church events—you know, the cool ones, with the skinny-jean-wearing pastors and the lights with the fog-effect and the guitars and the….passion. Oh, the emotion. It was a high. A Jesus-high. I was completely head-over-heels. But just like anything else: as time wore on, the high wore off. The passion of the over-emotional pastors with the long, greasy hair became, well…redundant. I kept hearing over and over how much I needed Jesus, and, I mean, I knew it. I had known it. That’s why I was there, hello. I wanted to know more. Gimme more. Tell me about this Jesus-guy. What was he like? What did he teach? Why should I care?
Have you ever felt this way when getting into a new relationship with someone you really click with? Whether with a friend, a mentor, someone of the opposite sex? When you first meet them, you’re intrigued. As you spend time with them, your intimacy grows. Things about them excite you. A new connection, a new friend. But you don’t just want to stop there. You want more. You want to know details about them—why are they the way that they are? What happened in their past? Intimacy grows from learning about them—what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them laugh, what gets them angry. My closest friends are the ones I know the most about, naturally.
And so it happened in my newfound relationship with God. Really, I just wanted to know Him. And I know this happens with a lot of new believers in Jesus. The hype is exciting. The emotion is fantastic. But what happens when the hype doesn’t sustain you? What happens when you get into a new relationship with someone and there’s no commitment to keep learning about that person, no commitment to stick around, no growing intimacy?
The relationship fades…
What really intrigued me most about the segment on NPR was the woman’s explanation about her desire for marriage, specifically. She understood the butterflies don’t last, and she understood, after much heartbreak, that the feelings don’t linger forever.
So why did she desire to be married?
Now her reasoning was one that made my mind and my heart do somersaults inside of me: This woman desired to be married because of the nobility of its endeavor. You see, love isn’t based on emotion—it’s based on intimacy and commitment and companionship and loyalty. And the truth is, my friends, to be committed, to be loyal, requires discipline. It requires character. It requires sacrifice. Love indeed is noble.
I’ve had friends walk away from the faith. I’ve had passionate, emotional, infatuated-with-Jesus friends give up on the entire thing. It took me a while to understand why. I just couldn’t understand how someone could give up on something so beautiful. But truthfully, we see things like that everyday. We see husbands and fathers and wives and mothers throw away families that they once so deeply cared about. And while I believe people must be held accountable for their actions, it does cause me to wonder: is it entirely their fault? Have they just been lied to their whole lives by the media, or in religion’s case by the skinny-jean-wearing-emotionally-driven pastor? Have they been tricked in believing that a relationship with God—with anyone—is void of nobility?
I tell someone I’m married for six months and they smile and exhale a well-meaning “awww…”
My grandparents tell the very same person they’ve been married for sixty years and they’re automatically given respect. It’s not the sweet “aww…” anymore, but the admiringly “wow, that’s beautiful!”
Why such two different reactions from seemingly the same thing—marriage? Well, because the former hasn’t experienced the nobility, yet. But even more so than that…the former hasn’t experienced the overwhelmingly beautiful benefit and joy that comes from years of exercising discipline, loyalty, sacrifice. The former hasn’t grown in the intimacy that comes with years of learning about their partner. The latter has sowed 6o years of these, and the latter has reaped benefits, oh sweet benefits from them.
So I speak to you, dear saint. I speak to you who is married, and I speak to you who is single. I speak to you; you who have lost the hype in your relationship with your Savior. Don’t settle for less. Seek to know more, to learn more. Don’t stop spending time. Don’t stop reading. Don’t stop praying.
Don’t stop getting to know your Savior. Just like you wouldn’t stop with your spouse, your parent, your child, your best friend.
Let the intimacy grow. Let the loyalty, discipline, sacrifice—nobility—carry you through. You will reap those benefits, those glorious and joyous benefits of a life lived in nobility.
Because the truth is, commitment is noble, my friend.
And love is nothing less than a commitment.