Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Love ain't easy

There are plenty of songs telling us what love supposedly is.
  • Love is a Many Splendoured Thing
  • Love Makes the World Go 'Round
  • Love Gets Me Every Time
  • Love is a Rose
  • Love is a Battlefield
  • Love Stinks
Appealing as all these metaphors may be, this last week I've been going with the theme of Faith Hill's song, "Love Ain't Like That."
No, love, love ain't like that.
Love ain't that easy to define....
Maybe amongst the cacophony of declarations of what love is, a few hints at what it is not could be refreshing. Perhaps more than another seed planted, the overgrown forest of love definitions needs a little pruning.

My kids have begun this pruning, teaching me that love ain't about making people happy, for example. They've showed me that love ain't blind either. And today, I will try to convince you (as my lovely ladies have managed to convince me) of this shocking insight: Love ain't easy.

Love is not easy.

You knew that already.

But did you ever catch yourself thinking something was wrong in a love relationship because it wasn’t going smoothly? “This is too much work,” I’ve thought. “This is not fun. If I have to strain so hard, do I really love this person?”

As we anticipated Brielle's birth, Rachelle and I knew we would feed her breast milk. It was natural. It was God’s plan. It was convenient, easy, simpler than buying and toting around formula. (Ladies, why the sardonic laughter?)

Brielle was born, and within minutes my wife learned how painful and difficult nursing could be. We went to “lactation consultants,” a profession that sounded laughable to me. Who needs consultants to be able to do this simple thing that God created us to do? Women have been doing it for millennia. It is core to the survival of the species, basic to who we are as mammals. It should just flow, you know?

Why should love be any different? It's natural. It is this simple thing that God created us to to, and people have been doing it for eons. It is core to the survival of our species, basic to who we are as children of God. It should just flow, right?

Here’s what I've found "just flows": affinity, attraction, lust. Liking someone comes easy. Loving them, not so much.

M. Scott Peck separates love from “cathexis,” which explains attractions to the opposite sex, the instinct for cuddling pets and pinching babies' cheeks. Cathexis come naturally. Animals naturally want to mate. I naturally like people who like me.

And then there is love. It takes effort. It is work. It’s difficult. As core as it may be to God’s design for us, we still seem to need “lactation consultants” of sorts to help us do it right—therapists, teachers, parents, pastors, books, friends and every other resource that helps us do this very tough job of loving.

Peck goes as far as to say that real love cannot begin until cathexis is over. Again, Peck's definition of love: "the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." He says I can’t really begin the work of this sort of love until the natural attraction has faded enough to make it difficult to extend myself to nurture your spiritual growth. This could mean that right around seven years, when so many couples are “falling out of love,” thinking divorce, it might be just the right time to actually begin to love.

God shows this kind of supernatural love:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:43-47)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
He did not come “being nice,” trying to make us merely happy—although his love calls us to grow toward true joy.

He did not die in blind ignorance of our evil—although his death can wash it away.

His love was anything but easy—it cost him everything.

Love ain't easy. But it's worth it. Loving three preschoolers ain't easy. But they're worth it.

Crazy thing is, loving me ain't easy either. But somehow, God thinks I'm worth it too.

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