Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The Powerful Equation of Love
Love is a soothing ointment on the scars of life. I've seen hearts seemingly hardened like stone, soften in the application of love. There have been men who are so hostile that every contact with them seems like a war, when treated with love, the pickly bristle of hostility is removed. Like the sun shining on the rose, the fragrance of love makes the coldest heart open.
There is nothing more important than love, yet many parents spend more time and money trying to find the right college for their children, or hunting for the right job for themselves. Their supposition is that once a person is economically or socially sound, love will soon follow.
My belief is that love ought to be put first, and the external things will follow. For example, a mother will carefully show her son by example, inference, and command, how to do the right thing in any situation, no matter what the cost. When this kind of character is bred into him, and he ernestly strives to live the principles of honor, duty and nobility, the perfect job and the perfect wife will come to him.
Sadly, the world has it backwards. It believes that economics is the basis of all success and happiness and that love is an accident which strikes unexpectedly, and that those who do well financially, will have better relationships and stronger marriages.
Commitment is the basis of love, yet few people live this out, in today's divorce culture. When the many principles of love are applied, a person can get through any hardship in marriage. Some people leave their mates because of economical reasons. Others leave because their mate has changed and is no longer the person they married. Yet, commitment overrides these reasons. It seems easy to understand commitment in a job, where payment is given to the loyal employee. The job may be boring, and the company may have changed from the one they first knew 30 years ago, but people keep going to work. They rarely divorce their jobs on the same basis as they divorce their wives.
Even at work, there are presentations and video clips to inspire and encourage the employees to get along with other employees that they don't agree with. Work may be stressful, yet many people remain committed to it. Yet, at home, mates are often treated with less consideration.
We pride ourselves on having the freedom of choice, but sometimes forget that we can choose to love the person we married. Many a husband who has walked out on a marriage, has done so because he "wasn't in love" anymore. However, it is easier to "do" your way into loving someone (with good words, thoughtfulness, and kindness that you would extend even to a stranger) than to love your way into doing.
In previous centuries, mates were chosen by the families, and yet there was more faithfulness, commitment and endurance than there is today, with our free choice of mates. I've often listened to open ridicule of the families who help find mates for their children, and yet see these very scoffers failing their own marriages.
While I do think it is good to have the prospective partners agreeable to marrying each other, I do not think the decision should be left entirely up to the young couple. Marriage is too big a commitment to leave it up to inexperienced youth. The advice of parents and others is very much needed, since they see qualities and flaws that young people do not see. The decision to marry should be a combined effort of the family. Couples who have the approval and backing of their parents are more likely to have stress-free marriages.
I've seen the amazing transformation in love in many couples where the wife has learned to overlook a fault, and look to what her husband could be. Alicia Nash, in the book (can't remember the author at this point) about her husband, Nobel prize winner John Nash, said, when her husband was sufferring from mental illness, "I just try to remember what he was when I fell in love with him. He then becomes that man I married, and I become the woman who loves him."
After accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics, Nash himself said, "I have always thought mathematics was important, but I have made the most important discovery in my career and of my life, in the illogical equation of love. It is one thing to have a beautiful mind, but it is quite another to know a beautiful heart (referring to his wife)."
There were two young men in our congregation who were not attractive to women, nor did they attempt it. As they grew older, when young women came around asking if there were any eligible men, and these guys were mentioned, people would say, "Oh, they are just a couple of country hicks living with their parents." They were reserved, and rarely spoke to women. Many girls passed up the opportunity to offer love to these fellows, in return for the faithfulness, stability and security they could give them.
One day a woman came to me and was wanting to know if I could introduce her to one of these men, as she was looking for a companion. I called them up and told them that she had inquired after them. Their father knew her pretty well and had apprently "talked up" about her. After church when introductions were made, this man that she was interested in, became the life of the party, full of enthusiasm, laughing, etc. I'd never seen him looking better--he was all dressed up, shaven, hair cut, neat and clean. She was kind and loving in her demeanor, and he sensed it. He asked her to his home immediately, and they exchanged phone numbers. I had thought over the years that girls were overlooking this man because of flimsy surface impressions, and were missing out on a rich life with them out on their estate. The application of love...it can change people.
In the pioneer story, "Love's Enduring Promise," by Janette Oke (also made into a movie), Marty cautions her daughter not to judge a man by his looks, charm, wealth or popularity, but by his loyalty and endurance, qualties that would make him " still love you when you are old and gray." People change, of course, because that is the way life is. If we based our love on the way people changed, we wouldn't even love our own brothers and sisters or our best friends. Commitment and loyalty will see us through these changes, and keep love alive.
Today, the scene would be much different. Because of no-fault divorce laws (which are everything BUT 'no-fault'), couples aren't willing to ride over the rough spots of their marriage. Their commitment is shallow, and love is never learned by going through the dark valleys with someone. I will grant that there are legitimate reasons for divorce, but most of the time, the problems that excuse quick divorces, could be solved. The people in the Depression era survived marriage, as well as most WW I and WWII veterans. Just look at the longevity of those marriages, compared to today, and yet they sufferred far more. They had less pay, less security, fewer benefits and less communication. They had commitment that overrides every possible set back.
While it is true that people in marriage change, the commitment never should. Has your sister or your mother changed? Are they every out of sorts with life and disagreeable with you? Would you even dream of walking out and never seeing them again? One function of marriage and the family is to help each individual grow and mature spiritually by attention to the needs of others. We are all in this together, as they say. When a husband or wife goes through unpleasant changes, even if only one of the partners remains determinedly committed, the marriage can survive, and love can grow.
A Texas Supreme Court Judge said, prior to 1970, "If a couple knows they cannot get out of a marriage for any flimsy reason, they will try harder to get along and they will adjust and make life more pleasant for themselves." This is true. When you look at people trapped in elevators, you know they will do whatever they can to keep the situtation calm. They don't know how long they will be there, and their best side comes out. Somehow, in marriage, this has been forgotten.
Rom 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Heb 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.
If we can understand this in the concept of Christian love, then we can apply it to marriage. When you aren't "in love" with your mate, treat him like a brother, a Christian in the church. In the church, we do not always "feel like" worshipping. Sometimes we are depressed or discouraged, but our commitment remains the same. The church members may have changed and some of them may not be exciting or growing like they should. Yet, our commitment remains the same, and we are faithful. We learn to be nice to people even when we do not know them well or are not "in love" with them. We can do the same in marriage, which is truly a love that will cover all faults.
The power of a stable marriage is the message it passes on to the rest of society. Neighbors and friends will be inspired by it. They will think, "Jim and Alice have been through this, and their marriage is still intact." Commitment is the bond that creates the feeling of love, not vice-versa. Yet, commitment is truly love in action.
What is the application of love? It is showing patience, kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness, and goodness. It is going the second mile. It is giving your cloak also. It is asking, "What is the most loving thing I can do in this situation?" It is treating the other person as though they were more important than yourself.
These things that create the composition of love - things like nobility, honor, honesty, and gentlenss, are part of the "good works"* the Bible speaks of. We are commanded to be rich in good works, and without them, we cannot become wise or understanding; we cannot mature. Working through troubles will make us stronger, better people. If you don't give up on your marriage in dark periods, you will be able to look back years later and be glad that you remained committed to the cause. Every marriage failure (divorce) is a blight on our nation, a breakdown of the church and the family, and everything that makes a country strong. You who say you are "patriotic," --did you know that saving your marriage is the most patriotic thing you can do?
When a runner enters a race, he does so because he is committed, and he loves the game. However even when the going gets tough, and even when he is so far behind that he knows he will not be the winner, he tries to finish the race. It is a matter of honor and of good character.
Can you imagine the crowd standing by the track, holding out bottles of enticing soft drinks and luring him to take his eyes off the goal; offering him comfort and ease and telling him not to endure; that he doesn't have to "put up" with the agony of the effort--especially since he isn't going to win first prize anyway? This is what our world is like when it says "you don't have to put up with this. It isn't worth it. You should quit."
I first understood this concept when I read Colossians 2: "...that no one may delude you with enticing words (persuasiveness of speech)...let no man beguile (rob) you of your reward..." vs. 4 and 18. It was then that I could imagine the athlete in competition, being distracted by his enemies so that he would fail in the game.
If you are being lured away from the prize of the high calling, you need to focus again on what is really worthwhile in life. If you divorce, you'll have a lifetime of his children, your children, our children, step grand-parents, plus, visitation schedules that will drive you crazy. The unhappiness you may be experiencing temporarily, will dim in comparison to the nightmare that is yet to come through divorce.
* Scriptures on "good works" for further study:
Romans 13:3 (this will keep you out of the courts)
I Timothy 2:10
It is interesting to see how intricately connected "good works" are to "love."
The Susan Rios print can be purchased at http://www.cherishd.com/susanrios/catalog.shtml
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See also "Here Because of Love" http://homeliving.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_archive.html