There are a lot of things that I know. But many of the things that I know I don’t really KNOW. I know that love is an action and a commitment, not always a feeling. Sometimes those kinds of things don’t really click though, so of course I started thinking about it.. 🙂
There are a lot of people in this world that I like. They’re easy to love. Sometimes people are easy to love. There are, of course, also a significant number of people in this world that I don’t particularly like. With some people there just seems to be little to nothing about them that moves me to like them, much less love them. It’s also simply the state of my depraved heart that keeps me from reaching out in love. Sometimes people are hard to love.
There’s a war going on inside when I don’t feel an emotion of love toward someone. I don’t feel loving toward them. But do my feelings dictate what I am to them at that time? If CS Lewis is correct in saying that, “‘Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained,” then it doesn’t much matter what I feel, does it? I can love someone no matter what. If Lewis is right, it’s possible that I can love someone really well even when my emotions tell me to pout and think only of myself.
In a way, am I sometimes most loving when I don’t feel like loving? Because then my action toward that person to love them is deliberate and not just an emotional overflow. Because at that moment my will to love them overcomes my emotion regarding them. I want to have a talk with my heart: “Listen here, emotions, I’m going to tell you what’s up!” Tenth Avenue North has this great lyric that says, “Oh my love, I will fight my heart to keep you safe here. All my life, I will stay.” Yep, my heart is selfish and sluggish, so fighting my heart is necessary in order to love others by a commitment to their good and safety.
This allows me to be loving toward people that culture would tell me I am not necessarily required to love. There are times that I think, “the last thing I want to do right now is act kindly and generously toward this person.” If I choose to act in love toward them in spite of that emotion, could it be just as good of a love as when it’s driven by positive emotions toward that person?
But I want to feel love toward people! Of course affectionate feelings and emotions are good and useful things and I do want them to be paired with that decisive choice to love someone. I want my emotions, in addition to my will, to be involved in loving someone, but at times it seems as though the emotions are a long time in coming around. Until they do, I’ll keep trying to decide to love. Tim Keller says, “Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”
CS Lewis speaks to this concept in the context of marriage:
“Ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ – is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. 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 the promise.”
“Quieter love.” How beautiful is that? Determined, selfless, quiet love. Lewis describes it well, but this concept applies to every interaction, not just marriage. Well yes, it’s beautiful, but not easy. It seems as though we glorify so many things in life that really are just hard as all get-out. Sometimes I think about hard things and think, “Yeah it’s hard but it’ll be beautiful and so noble and great.” Really though? Sometimes hard things are just hard, and that’s all. That kind of love is HARD. Yes it’s beautiful but oh so hard, and not always wonderful, glorious, and rewarding.
And then there is the divine act of love:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
That’s how God showed love. A decisive act despite the rebellion and unloveliness of us. He came, moved toward, sacrificed. When I was still a sinner, Christ was fundamentally committed to me and would not give up. That is glorious and beautiful!
Thursday’s unsifted thoughts 🙂