Feelings. That basically sums everything up. Love is a feeling, something you “know in your heart” or other such nonsense. Today, love is any sort of attraction to a pretty face or nice personality. This message is constantly getting chucked in our faces and burned into our brains in whatever we do or see. Movies, books, music, magazines, peers, school, all try to tell us the “true” meaning of love. Sadly, many people actually believe (even if subconsciously) that they can get through life and a marriage based on feelings. Emotions are such fickle things by their very definition; it’s absurd to assume anything substantial could be built to last with a foundation like that. Love is not a feeling, love is an action, a choice. Love is not meeting some guy and marrying him two days later like in all those cheesy chick flicks. You have to choose to love someone, even if they don’t deserve it. (Especially if they don’t deserve it) Love is not flitting from flower to flower, love is choosing to stay and care for the one blossom, through drought and rain.
I remember the first time I started to grasp an inkling of what real love-and a real marriage-looks like. To my shock, marriage was not always the honeymoon-stage bliss I thought love should be. However, neither should it be a den of anger, yelling and fighting all the time. My parents never really tried to hide their fights from us kids or give off the impression they were perfect parents. I think this gave me more than anything a realistic view of marriage while also showing me healthy and Godly (and sometimes not-so-healthy!) ways to resolve conflict. The point: it was real. And sadly, the only reality many people know when it comes to marriage is that of divorce and separation.
I compared it to something my young mind could grasp-living with my sibling. I have a pretty good relationship with my brother, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of fights and arguments. On the flip side, we’ve had many memorable and fun times together. Marriage is a journey through life and one that can’t be guided by your “heart”. Notice this is in quotes because first of all, to “feel with your heart” is anatomically impossible and second, saying you can’t control your feelings is simply a lie. Yes, maybe you can’t “help” your feelings, but you can surely control your actions. Why do you think divorce rates have risen so dramatically in the past few decades? People think that when their feelings are no longer there, the love must be gone as well. A real marriage is about working together through your differences, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. If you’ve ever strived for some accomplishment, (music, sports, etc) there were doubtless days you didn’t want to practice that song or throw that ball a few more times. Yet you did it because you knew if you kept going, the results of becoming better in your field would pay off.
Marriage, after all, is a reflection of God’s love for the church. If God will never leave us and will be there for better or for worse, what can we do but the same for our earthly spouses?
One struggle for me (and many other young people I think) is to not get carried away by our imaginations. That also includes books and movies and such. Being a lover of many fandoms, I wrestle with escapism and idealizing men in my head. “Building the Perfect Man” daydream sessions are fun, but can be as dangerous and addictive as porn, even if it is all in your mind. Think of it as emotional porn, in the same category as romance novels and soap operas. Porn may seem like a strong word, but it’s the same principle: setting impossible standards based on impossible people and becoming dissatisfied with reality. This is not to say we should lower our standards on the moral and most important ground, no. I’m talking about disillusionment and a growing detachment from the real world. Believe me, I’ve experienced this myself on a semi-serious level, just so y’all don’t think I’m only preaching or thumping my Bible over your heads.
One of the sneakiest snares I fell (and still fall) into is the nightly Dream-About-Perfect-Love-Scenarios-While-Drifting-To-Sleep trap. Or maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know. (If I am, then just ignore this section I guess?) It seems so innocent and harmless at the time. Yet, if we cultivate daily habits like this before a relationship, who’s to say they’ll end after a relationship has started? “Well, I’ll stop then.” People protest. Yes, that’s also what addicts and alcoholics say after years of half-heartedly trying to “quit”. And, in a sense, it’s dishonoring to your current/future spouse, when we’re essentially daydreaming about another, better man/woman.
Another point our society especially struggles with is infatuation. From celebrities to Starbucks to a fandom, the possibilities really are endless when it comes to our idols, for that’s what they are when they take first place in our lives. Often these things aren’t bad in and of themselves; it’s when they overrun our lives that it gets to be a problem. The “need” to have a significant other/thing for fulfillment has become so prevalent today, it’s no wonder people get clingy and needy in or out of relationships. Their whole world revolves around this person or thing, all the choices they make are affected because of this infatuation. Hmmm…sound familiar to anyone? That’s because that is exactly how we ought to be living the Christian life, with our lives centered around Christ and His will. Fixing our eyes on things not of this world and all that. But it’s true.
I’m guilty of being infatuated with many other things than God as well, whether it’s a book, actor, TV show or something equally nerdy. Point being: we need to stop worrying about who likes who or if I’ll be single all my life or if he’ll ever like me back and live the full and wonderful plan God has for you and me.
We’re sent here to glorify His name, not our latest crush. Let’s stop objectifying our brothers and sisters in Christ by only seeing them as “potential marriage material” and start respecting them like the unique children of God they are. Whether or not marriage is in your future, we can (and should) rest content in the knowledge that all the love we’ll ever need, the only love that can satisfy, hung on a cross and died for us. You won’t find that in a Nicholas Sparks movie.