“They say that falling in love is wonderful. It’s wonderful, so they say. And with a moon up above it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful, so they tell me. I can’t recall who said it. I know I never read it. I only know that falling in love is grand…” – They Say It’s Wonderful (by Irving Berlin)
This post goes out and is dedicated to all my girls and as a gentle warning to the men and women I care about:
I recently finished reading through Elizabeth Elliot’s book Passion and Purity. Her words caused me to rejoice, weep, hope, and fear; and within the scope of all that were some passages I greatly wrestled with. If you’re a man or a woman I know that you’ve been left in the lurch, rejected and confused by love and what love means and what God’s love should look like in your relationships (conduct, attitude) towards the opposite sex. I know that many of you are still in pain with raw hearts. I’ve been there and I still struggle and mostly struggle with the heart attitude that stems from that that would try to rob me of my joy and freedom in Christ. I wanted to share this passage from one of her last chapters in summing up her book, titled, Out of Love and Into Charity. “Ouch, Rachel….I don’t want to be some charity case when it comes to love,” you might be thinking, put off by the title. Stay with me, here. Take heed and be encouraged by Elliot’s words:
Passion, whether that of one who is hungry for another not yet given or that of one who by God’s gift, shares the bed of another, must be held by principle. The principle is love – not erotic or sentimental or sexual feeling, but love. It is the way of charity. Perhaps the old word is best. The newer has been corrupted by the strange phenomenon of “falling in love.”
I know a young man – I’ll call him Philpott – who over the past five or six years seems to have made a career of falling in and out of love. He’s a very attractive man and seems able to pick and choose from an eager group of attractive and eminently available women. He wrote to me recently to say that he’d done it again. Fallen out of love with a girl we’ll call Cheryl. “Darn it all,” he said, “here I thought I’d found my dream girl but ‘it didn’t work out.’ Just couldn’t maintain the feelings.”
Here’s my reply.
About this business of falling out of love. Everybody does it, you know. Sometimes before they get married, but always afterwards. Modern folks simply bug out of the marriage then, if they feel no obligation to keep vows – vows made foolishly, they believe.
There is something to be said for making an adult choice and sticking with it. “Being in love,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, “is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last…But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God…They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep their promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
So, Philpott, one of these days you need to take a cool, clear look at a good Christian woman. Assess her potentials as a good Christian wife. Is she the kind you’d want as a hostess at your table? Is she what you want for a mother for your children? Is she womanly? Godly? Sensible? Modest? Companionable? Do you think she’s “worth” your love? Are you worth hers? (If you think you are, you’re probably wrong. Each is to esteem the other better than himself.) Is it God’s time for you to get married? Then make up your mind and ask God’s help to love her as she ought to be love.
You said, “One never knows which way the Lord will lead,” and that’s true. He just might be telling you to “be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding…” (Psalms 32:9) and get with it.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no idea that Cheryl is The Woman. Don’t know a thing about her except you said she’s gorgeous. That isn’t enough. But if you’re looking for some kind of feeling that will be consistent day in and day out, forget it. The kind of love that sustains a marriage is God given, but it is also a daily choice. For the rest of your life. Never forget that.
I just know from personal experience and from countless other stories from women in my life that many men throw the “I feel God is calling me to a season of singleness” line after dating them a few months and then turn around and start dating another woman they feel might suddenly change that “status” this time…and the vicious, “bull in a china shop cycle” continues. I know several beautiful, godly women in their late twenties and early thirties who aren’t being pursued. JR Vassar points this out in his message Hyper-Reality and the Bread of Life, which I touch upon in my blog post How a Consumerism Mentality Destroys and Affects Relationships and Marriages Amongst Christians.
I don’t have the answers and even if there’s an easy solution, implementing it is a whole other can of worms. I’m not taking sides here but I am praying for and love all my Christian brothers and sisters.
Rachel B. Duke