A Pepper Grinder Post

True Love

I think our society has it wrong in many ways when it comes to love.  I’m not even talking about our understanding of the relationship (or lack of it) between love and sex.  I am talking about how we think love is supposed to feel.

balloonsI’m not pinning this on the current generation.  I do not know how long the idea that true love produces only true happiness (and that absence of happiness indicates absence of love) has been around, but it was certainly well-entrenched before I came on the scene.  I’m simplifying a little.  True romantic love, as portrayed in the media, isn’t always happy—you need the occasional big fights and misunderstandings, leading to tender scenes of making up, to give the thing some real spice. 

It is true that love, romantic and otherwise, really is a fantastic thing, and is capable of bringing great happiness.  People who may be pretty ignorant of the Bible have often heard of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul presents love as the greatest of gifts.  The problem I see is the idea, which is so common now, that love is a feeling rather than a decision or a commitment.  Along with this misunderstanding comes the idea that love can leak out of a relationship, like helium slowly leaking out of a balloon.  One morning you wake up and that red, heart-shaped balloon that was so lovely six days ago is lying on the floor looking kind of shriveled.  Mysteriously, inexplicably, the love is gone from the relationship.

When we say the love has left a relationship, I think we are exhibiting a basic confusion.  We say the love has left, but what has really left is the sparkle, the excitement, the intensity, the happiness.  It has been so drilled into our brains that romantic love brings these things, that once they are gone, we assume the love is too.  And once the “love” is gone, what’s the point of keeping up the shallow shell of a relationship that remains?

But how does this view of love compare with the God of the Bible?  It is not too hard to picture the entire Bible as one long love story, with God as the longsuffering bridegroom and his people as the fickle, selfish bride.  Over and over, we see God’s people reject him.  He may be furious; he may punish his people; but over and over, he comes back with a new plan to win his lover back. 

couple walking on beachNowhere is this clearer than in the prophets.  We see God bellow with fury over the open adultery of his wife.  We see him vow to make her suffer.  Yet, when she has suffered and cried out in pain, we see him speak in the most tender of ways about how he will bring her back to him, and of all the good things he will do for her.

I believe that when you truly love someone, you give that person immense power to hurt you.  I think many people who have been parents for some length of time understand this.  The pain, the happiness, the slogging persistence, and the excitement are all part of the same amazing package.  If you try to take the happiness and excitement without the pain and perseverance, what you are left with is not true love, and it will not last.


*Photo Credits: heart balloons by , couple on beach by