Giving Love A Bad Name
February 13, 2003
Table to Width Ratios, VSI, Clarity, F, Round Cut, Color, .5 Carat, .75 Carat. I felt like crying. What was I, a 21-year-old college senior, doing there?? And then I saw it. The perfect ring.
“How ‘bout that one?”
“It’s tagged at $13,000. Not exactly the price range you gave.”
“Well I guess she’ll learn to do without it,” I joked.
“If she’s in love. With you.”
So what is this whole love thing that had me standing along Chicago’s famous “Jeweler’s Row”? And why is buying an engagement ring so hard? Why do you need a team of specialists, research, data, power point presentations, advice from 13 married men and an injury waiver? After all, love is simple, right? Remember how simple it used to be? Wrap an old shoebox in some foil, cut a slit in the top, paste on some macaroni and construction paper hearts, and the declarations of love would start pouring in freely. Maybe I should have tried it. Maybe I should have stood right there on Washington and State Streets with my foil box. I mean, after all, 14 girls in my forth-grade class loved me. I can prove it. That’s what their cards said. And that’s what Mrs. Brown told me.
Could she have been lying? Could it be that the world is wrong about love? That we shouldn’t buy in to their faulty definition and counterfeit emotion? We all want it. We all need it. We all seek it and hope for it and want so desperately to share love. But what exactly is it? Depending on who we listen to we get various answers. Society tells us that love is this uncontrollable feeling that you just have for someone. You look at them, you get to know them, and all the sudden you have warm tingly feelings that you can’t stop. Your legs go numb and your heart explodes every time you look at or even think about the object of your “love.” The world calls that love. I call it infatuation.
I think we’re all aware of the flippant overuse of the word and the confusion of lust and love. How many college parties have you been to where drunk guys talk about “Making Love” in their three-day relationships? I misuse the word all the time myself. “I love the Cubs. I love Pez. I LOVE Seinfeld.” You always hear it. “I love this, I love that.” No, you don’t.
Love is not a feeling that just suddenly happens. Love isn’t simply a magical force that can’t be contained, predicted or stopped. Love is a choice. Particularly romantic love, but even brotherly love and friendship—they’re all decisions we make. Decisions to give up our rights. Decisions to serve someone else and consider him or her and their needs before our own. It’s hard. We are commanded model our love for each other after the love Christ had for us (John 15:12). Does that scare anyone else? Do we love Christ in return all the time? I say, “But Lord, loving others is hard! Can’t you make it easier for us?” And then I remember that he knows how hard it is. He didn’t wear that crown of thorns and get those wounds in his side and hands for some silly, careless emotion. He loved us perfectly—even though he knew it would be difficult and painful, and that we might not love him back. After all, how does the Bible define love? One way it defines it is this: that we lay down our lives for each other (John 15:13). A quick web-search shows “love” used 183 times in the New Testament alone. Must be pretty important.
I would like to think that I’ve learned a little bit about love in my first 21 years of life. You wake up every day and (maybe not consciously) decide to love and to serve the person you love. You choose to spend time in service to a person who brings you enjoyment. You do things together, grow together, store up memories, experiences and nostalgia ... which is where all those warm feelings that we think are “love” come from.
Being “in love” is all that other stuff. All those warm, gushy feelings aren’t bad—they’re the sparks that starts a relationship. But you can never have a bonfire if all you have is a few sparks. The real stuff of love is in the pain and the decision to live for the other person with whom you share this love. Being in love isn’t bad, but being in love and not actually loving the person accounts for some of the most painful, worthless and dangerous relationships I have ever witnessed first or secondhand. I would even go as far as to say that we can love anyone if we make (and re-visit) the decision and effort to.
I hope I haven’t given being in love a bad name, because it’s pretty dang amazing. Knowing and serving someone in such an intimate way is a precious gift. In it, we are given insight into the character of God and given a chance to learn more about Him as we love each other. Rich Mullins once said, “What an amazing thing to be so in love that you forget how obnoxious love looks to everyone else,” and he’s right.
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