We have some daft sayings but one of the daftest, and most dangerous, and dishonest is the phrase that goes ” I fell in love”.
Love is not a big dark hole that we stumble into , unexpectedly. That’s lust. That’s passion. That’s sexual oomph. It isn’t love.
What is love, then? What’s the difference? Well, hang on, this is a 73 year old woman speaking here so I feel a bit removed from the hot stuff, but to me the difference is self. Passion is all about self, about excitement, physical hunger, a thirst that demands to be slaked and slaked now. We’ve all been there. But come on, get real – love is not about any of that. I’ve been reading Romans – there’s a lot about love in that book, the love of Christ, our love, what love does, what love doesn’t do, and so, wanting to read God’s definition of love once again, I turned to 1 Corinthians 13,
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’
There’s this really awful, garish, trashy, exploitative, botox, bottle-tan, pouting, posing, thong wearing, pecs flexing, programme on TV just now, ‘Love Island’. Young people love it. My own granddaughter has paid £4 a month so she can watch it without ad breaks, that’s how immersed she is in it! But this ain’t anything to do with love, it’s Lust Island. I don’t really think there’s much lust for those taking part, unless it’s lust for celebrity and their 15 minutes of fame, but it’s probably Lust Island for some viewers, the lonely and isolated. For healthy youngsters I think it’s just one more soap opera, with even more hooks and twists than Eastenders; who will be mean to whom, who will lie and will they be discovered, who will cheat and who will seem an OK kinda guy, there in that artificial setting, in front of the cameras, for a few charged weeks?
I’m not against attraction. It’s God’s gift to us. When we find someone to love, really love and marry, that’s a wonderful gift but there are other gifts along the way – it’s great fancying someone, it’s healthy to see the beauty in other people, and the odd crush makes life a little more colourful. Vive le difference and all that! But I’m a grandmother and I think a lot about the world my family is growing up in, and the influences all around them, so I’ve been thinking a lot about their understanding of love. And that, of course, has made me question my own understanding and commitment.
Romans is not always comfortable reading, at least not to me. It reminds me of God’s love for me, and how far it is from my love for him. I’ve been particularly challenged by that rallying cry I quoted a few blogs ago ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?’
And you know what I thought? I thought “His love will never leave me, but will my love leave him? Is it, even now, on the wane? Am I as hungry for worship and prayer and life in the Spirit as I was a few short years ago?”and then I remembered Revelation 2 and God’s message to the church at Ephesus
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!
The message translation or version uses these words “Turn back! Recover your dear early love.”
You know when a thought grabs you and shakes you? This one grabbed and shook me. Do I need to rediscover my early love for God?
Isn’t it fabulous when we first find someone we really, really, whole-heartedly fancy? When they are everything we think is wonderful, when the sound of their voice, or even the thought of them, the glimpse of them in a crowd, sets the heart racing and makes us smile? You can barely string a few words together without mentioning their name. That’s what the world says is ‘falling in love’. But it isn’t. Because that level of passion and desire passes. It does. It simply does.
So, if we can’t excuse ourselves by claiming to have somehow accidentally ‘fallen’ in love, how can we excuse ourselves by claiming, some time later, that we’ve ‘fallen’ out of love? Can I say “Well, yeah, I was dead excited about God, but you know, with time… well, stuff happens doesn’t it? You get busy, Covid comes along, friends leave, other friends die, things change, I’m not in a church and you know, life gets in the way. He’s there…. but just not here… not every day anyway….. you know? ”
Arrgghh! Is this who I’ve become? Have I lost my first love, my delight and joy, my desperate need and promise to follow? If loving and following Jesus was a decision and a commitment, is there now any excuse for wandering away?
Love is not a great big hole we fall into and fall out of. It’s a decision.
It’s decision that you stand by, and honour. It won’t be always easy – but you get through the rough times together.
My reading this week has been a personal and direct warning to me. Love matters. Like marriage it takes steadfastness, patience, submission, trust and, like marriage, it’s worthwhile, joyful, rewarding.
I don’t want to fall out of love. I won’t. I refuse to. God has me on a piece of elastic, so that however far I wander, he pings me back.