Love Connection – Passage 2/22/09 – Part One

love-connection-jpgI love ranch-flavored sunflower seeds.

Seriously.  I love those things.  I could eat them all day long.  Get me a diet coke and a bag or two of seeds and I’m content for the afternoon.

But I also love cookie crisp cereal, eggo waffles, ESPN, my daughter, University of Oregon sports and, of course, my iPhone.   I love my wife, music, God, video games, good friends, and coffee.

Love.  I say that I love many things.  But, what does “love” mean?  Obviously I don’t love my wife like I love my iPhone, right?   Well, those might be close.  Bad example.  But, it can’t be healthy.

I think you get what I’m saying.  Love for food, for family, for possessions, and for God all employ the same word but mean different things.   And if love can be used for so many things, than what does it really mean?

It’s almost as if since love has come to mean so many things that it doesn’t really mean anything.  Could that be part of our problem with relationships?  Maybe we aren’t really sure what love means anymore.

And so we love our wives like we love our video games.  We love our God like we love our sports.  And maybe that doesn’t hurt our love of video games and sports, but what if it is too shallow to create good relationships with people and God.   What if loving people like we love food is fine for the food but not caloric enough for people?

Well, we are on week three of this series, “Love Connection,” and this last week Austin talked about what love really means.   And here are the questions that came from that discussion.  Again, I’ll respond to two of them today and two more tomorrow.

Please join us.  Read the questions.  Follow the response.   And feel free to join in the dialogue.


Question #1
“What is the difference between loving someone and “being in love”?

This is a great question, because I think it gets to the heart of what we talked about on Sunday night.

3g-iphone-1The problem with both of these terms is they need defined.  When someone says, “love” what do you think of?  Love of what?  Sunflower seeds?  iPhone?   And if love is hard to define, than what about the phrase, “being in love.”  That one seems to have taken on a whole lot of fuzziness.  No one is quite sure what it means.  In fact, most people might tell you that it can’t really be defined at all.  It isn’t something you can describe; you can only feel it.

So, let’s start there because that might be a good clue.   Chances are if you can’t define it and can only “feel” it, then it isn’t real love.  At least not how I think God defines it.  Now because we can love tv-shows and birthday cake in our culture, you can call it whatever you want.  But, I don’t think the feeling of “being in love” is necessarily God-like love.

What I think most people mean when they say “being in love” are the overwhelming feelings of attraction that take over our minds.   You know, those initial feelings we experience when we meet someone we are attracted to.

And those are, in fact, hard to define.  But, we all know the things we feel in those moments of “being in love.”  All you want to do is spend every moment together.  You blow-off sleep to text late into the night.  A song plays on your iPod and you think of your future together.  You write notes and letters full of words of undying love.  All of a sudden you are a poet!  You lie awake day-dreaming of your wedding day.  Etc…

Now, none of these things is bad.  In fact, they are a huge part in bringing people together in relationships.  However, these feelings, as great as they are, aren’t love.

Love is something else entirely.  Now, we’ve covered this many times at this point, but love is not simply a feeling that overwhelms you, but a choice that is proven with actions.

Austin mentioned this last Sunday night, and I think he was right on.  He said we find a definition of sorts for love in the Bible.  1 John 4:10:  “Now this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

il_430xn17617026In essence, John says, “You wanna know what love is?  Well, this is love.  This is it right here.  You know love because God, who is love, loved you.  He defined love for you.  But his definition can’t be found in a dictionary.  Love isn’t made of words and feelings, but of actions.  Love is a verb.  And he demonstrated this action of love by not claiming his own rights and choosing to come and give up his own life for you, though you didn’t deserve it.  In fact, before you even chose to love him.”

Real love is choosing to care about another person more than yourself.  Real love is self-sacrificial.  It chooses to love the other person even when the feelings of “being in love” are gone for a while.  Real love is a commitment of the will to give whatever is necessary, to sacrifice everything for another.

For, example:  real love doesn’t pressure other people to do what you want to do.  Real love asks what the other person needs not what they want.  Real love is honest and authentic and doesn’t need to pretend to be something or someone else.  Real love is willing to give up what would be fun for what would be most helpful or beneficial for the other person.   Real love is sacrifice.

Now, the feelings of “being in love” may be what help us enter into relationships.  The chemistry that we feel in these moments is good, exhilarating and a huge blessing.   But, I don’t think we were ever meant to then define them as love.   Love moves beyond these feelings to a conscious choice to give your whole life to this person regardless of how long those feelings last.

This idea of love, then, obviously moves beyond just romantic relationships.   Should you love your family, your friends and even God with this type of love?  Yeah, I think so.  But, certainly any serious romantic relationship should be built on it.

Which moves us to the next question…


Question #2
How do you know when you truly love someone?

Well, this is a great question, but I’m a little hesitant to respond with too much because we will be going into this one a lot deeper this next week.

However, at least one thing can be said:  because love is a choice, it isn’t as difficult to know when you really love someone as you might imagine.

waterslide0_000Think of it this way.   How do you know when you are really going down a water-slide at Wildwaves?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I’m going down the slide when I choose to do it and push off and head on down.   In other words, I know my decision pretty quick.  Either I’m yelling and screaming down a winding tube full of raging water or I’m not.  (I just wonder how many kids have peed in the pool at the bottom!).

Love is similar.   When you choose to start caring about someone more than yourself, than you have engaged in love.

Now, I know that is a little bit simplistic, and we’ll go into greater detail this next week.  (Look at you and your question being ahead of the curve!)  But, I think a lot of the difficulty we have with knowing whether or not we are “really in love” is based on our faulty assumption at the beginning that love is this magical “feeling” that we “fall” into rather than a “choice” that we make.

superman lunch boxI mean, we make choices all day long and don’t question it.  I don’t start eating my subway sandwich and think, “How do I know that I’m really eating lunch?”  (Some philosphers might, Rene Descartes wanted to know how to know he really existed!)  I know I’m eating lunch because I’ve decided it is noon and I’m hungry and that I’m going to eat now (which actually sounds like a good idea, cause all this food talk is making me hungry).

Do you get what I’m saying?  I know there is a bit more to it than just this.  Knowing when we have gone from just the fun feelings of “being in love” to real self-sacrificial God-like love may require the tests of time, security, knowledge, focus and a whole bunch of other stuff that we will get into this next week.

But, if love is really a choice, then at some point I can be sure that I have in fact made this choice.   Now, I could choose at some other point to go back on this choice and make a new choice.  But, that wouldn’t be very loving, would it?  ☺

Hope this partially answers your questions, and hang-in there, hopefully next week will be more helpful.

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Love Connection – Passage 2/15/09 – Part One

love-connection-jpgWell, it is Monday again already.  And I woke up early to get started on more great questions that students have texted in during last night’s message.  So, I drove to my office, but then realized when I saw the gates closed on the parking lot that it is a holiday and my office was closed.

Which brings me to Starbucks.  And really, I can’t think of a better place to sit and answer questions.  To my left is an older couple (maybe in their 60’s) sitting across from each other at a small table, drinking drip coffee and sharing a breakfast sandwich.

starbucks logoTo my right is a younger couple (maybe 30’s).  They look as if they haven’t seen each other in a while.  She just came in and they got all “weepy” and started kissing.  Now they are cuddle up in the comfy chairs staring deeply into each other’s eyes.  They might need a private room.  🙂

And in front of me are two guys holding hands.  Ahhh, the diversity of relationships at the local neighborhood Starbucks!

So, with all this love “brewing” in the air (pun intended), let’s get started with the newest round of questions…  I’ll respond to two more today and then answer the final two from this weekend tomorrow…

Question #1
How do you know if you have found the “right person”?

This is a great question because it has to be one of the most frequently asked and discussed inquiries of most people.  Think about it.  How do you know that the person you feel drawn toward is a good person for you to spend your whole life with?  It seems like such a major decision.  You don’t wanna choose the “wrong person”.   After all, “the rest of your life” has such a long sound to it.   Too long to be stuck with someone that you don’t like.

Now, different people may have different responses to this question.  But let me give you my perspective.

First, as we discussed last night, I think we can be too preoccupied with finding the “right person.”  One of the great myths of true loveour culture’s recipe for love is that there is just one “right person” out there for you and that when you find them they will be able to meet all of your needs 100% of the time.   It is a myth that quietly whispers to us that we are incomplete without this one person who was created to fulfill our every need.

In this way, I don’t think you will ever find the “right person.”   According to the Bible, to hope in anything  (or anyone) else besides God for complete happiness will always end in disappointment.

Consider the words of the prophet, Isaiah:  “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.”

What Isaiah is saying is that everybody will let you down eventually.  Even the gorgeous young man that you think is PERFECT!   And in that way, maybe there isn’t a “right person” out there for you that is destined to complete you.

Possibly, there are many flawed individuals (just like you) that are out there.  And some of them will be more “right” for you in the sense that they have similar interests and personality, etc.  But, maybe you aren’t created to be with any of them specifically.   They could be the right “type” of person for you, but not “THE RIGHT PERSON” for you, if that makes any sense.

holeMaybe what is needed is to stop looking for the “right person” and focus on BECOMING the “right person”.  A far bigger problem in relationships today is that too many of us aren’t really ready emotionally, spiritually, and mentally for a good relationship no matter who the other person is.   We are looking for something that is missing in our lives.  We are looking for someone to come and fill a hole in us emotionally or mentally.   And our relationships are built on finding the “one right person” to fill this need, rather than built on finding ways to show sacrificial love to another person.

When we focus on finding the “right person” our relationships become about trying to help ourselves, when true love is centered on others not ourselves.

Listen to the words of Jesus about the greatest type of love available:  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”  — John 15:13 (TNIV)

For a love relationship to be successful, it must be built on more than you trying to better yourself.  It must be based on your choice to give up your rights and preferences for another person and them choosing to do the same for you.   This is love.  And if we can start to find the completeness in our life before engaging in these relationships, we will BECOME “the right person” that can succeed in a long-term relationship rather than hopelessly assuming another person can do it for us.

Question #2
Why would you want to change what you want—like your dreams—to have someone else be happy?   Are you saying that you should change yourself so many times that you are not you anymore?  How do you do that if everyone is telling us to?

This is a really good clarification question that I am glad that someone asked.   I changed how it was initially worded in the text in order to hopefully make it more readable, and so I hope that I have captured the main idea of it.  If I haven’t accurately represented your question, please text me back or let me know.

This question has to do, I believe, with the encouragement I gave last night to stop looking for the “right person” and become the “right person.”   And to some degree, I think I kind of responded to this in the question above.

However, I do want to be very clear with this point.  Becoming the right person does NOT mean that you must change who you are, your dreams, your hopes, your personality. Rather, I think it means approximately the opposite.

you-complete-meThe problem with viewing love as an attempt to find the “right person” is that we get caught in the trap of thinking that our goals, dreams, hopes, etc.  aren’t good enough and that we need someone else to come and complete them.  Looking for the “right person” minimizes what God has already given us.  We become willing to compromise what we want and feel called to, in order to find the one prize that will bring us ultimate happiness.  And then we discover that the advertisement for the prize wasn’t totally accurate and it has let us down.  But, by that point, we have given up so much.

For example, I can think of several people that I met in college.  These people were at a Bible college because they had felt since they were very young that God had called them to ministry.   So, they came to study and pursue their goal and the calling they felt from God to serve people in ministry.

However, these specific people also met love interests while in college.  And because they believed in “finding the right person,” they believed they were destined to marry them.  The problem:  these love-interests weren’t interested in ministry.  And so what happened?  These called, gifted students abandoned their dreams and ignored the call of God in their life to marry a person they believe “God had created just for them.”

They compromised.  They believed the wrong recipe and gave up what God created them to do.

Now, in “becoming the right person” you don’t need to make these concessions.  It is a process of learning to accept yourself.  To know your strengths, gifts, beauty and identity and worth as a child of God.  And to also be honest and acknowledge your weaknesses, fears, hang-ups, and struggles.

In this process, you see the good and the bad, and through relationship with God, you learn to be content with who you are.  Knowing full well the holes in your life, you allow God to fill them, and you become confident knowing that you don’t need another person to have a great life.  You won’t be looking to another human being for questions about whether your life is successful or significant, you will look to your identity in God for that.

When you have reached this point, you will have outstanding relationships because you won’t need to “change” who you are to fit another person or to make them like you or complete you.  You will find relationships in which you can be the person that God created you to be without fear or compromise.

Now, real love does make sacrifices.  But, these sacrifices won’t be a sacrifice of your worth at this point.  Actually the opposite.  You will sacrifice for your partner because of your recognition of their beauty in their identity in Christ too.

Becoming the right person isn’t about changing “who you are” so much as it is about changing where you get your confidence, strength and identity.   It is a process of discovering “Who’s you are” and being content with “who you are.”

And it is the biggest key to good relationships.