What if they were wrong about this, too? (part two)

Growing up, I came to believe in love as a power of its own. I believed it was transforming, that it could save, that it was transcendent. Of course as a young girl this looked a lot like naive romanticism, but my belief in love also impacted friendships and other relationships. I believed that if I sought the best in people, they would want to become the best of themselves. I believed in accepting people exactly as they were, loving them in their brokenness, being broken with them. I loved new friends, new people, new connections. I dreamt of the day I would meet someone who would be the other side of me, the second puzzle piece, of living out a life of meaning and impact in the world with a co-conspirator by my side.

When I became a Christian, I learned that what I believed about love was a lie. Hollywood had conspired with the music world to weave a deception of lust and infatuation and unfaithfulness that was to be wholly rejected. DC Talk told me that love was a verb. Preachers warned married couples that love is a choice. Josh Harris told me love was as much about being a good babysitter/handyman as anything else. Across the board, the heart is deceitful above all things and would only lead me astray.

However, because I became a Christian in the charismatic world, there was still an outlet for romance. In Jesus. He is the lover of my soul. He is wooing me. He is the real hero of Song of Solomon. All of that belief in love was meant to be directed toward Him. My love for others was a series of choices, of doing what is right when I don’t feel like it. If I don’t want to hep you, or listen to you, or hang out with you, but I do it anyway, then I’ve loved. If I want to help or listen or hang out with you, well that’s probably my flesh and should be sacrificed on the altar of suffering for Jesus.

Fast forward fifteen years or so, and I finally found my way out of the maze of Charismania. I came to believe that thinking of Jesus only in terms of the Bridegroom was overly sentimental (and sometimes just plain creepy). I moved away from a strictly emotional relationship with God and determined to practice spiritual disciplines because they were right, regardless of how I felt at the time. This has been my approach for four or five years now. Recently however I’ve been thinking about the dangers of legalistic religion (following rules and going through religious motions divorced from meaning). I’ve been thinking about the good intentions of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. I’ve been wondering how on earth to fulfill the command to love God with all my heart apart from sentimentality. I’ve been struggling for a long time with feeling dry inside, shriveled and unexcitable and disconnected from the things in my life. I don’t love or enjoy or laugh or play like I used to. I often think it just doesn’t matter. I feel disconnected from the things I used to love, and I haven’t been able to figure out why.

In the midst of this I recently watched the film “Moulin Rouge.” I was impressed by the principles of the Bohemian Revolution: truth, beauty, freedom and above all love. The refrain “the greatest thing you can ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” has been ringing in my mind. I’ve thought about other stories and shows that have impacted me in recent years, all of which involve strong loves at their core. Love between parent and child, grandfather and grandson, friends, lovers, companions. And I’ve realized that I had transferred my belief in the power of love from people to Jesus, then from Jesus to…nothing. I’m a person of passion and emotion and intensity, and I’ve stopped believing that the heart is the source of love. Love has become a mental exercise, an obligation to action regardless of how I feel. This is the definition of legalism in relation to God, and I’m not sure what it is in relation to people. In the words of the enneagram, love has been relegated to the head and the gut, and I’m a heart person.

Maybe the path back to a vibrant and real love for my God begins with acknowledging that I still believe in storybook love. I believe in being swept off your feet, of feeling love so powerfully that you could conquer anything, of believing in someone so much that they grow to meet your faith in them. It may be silly, or juvenile, or naive, but the truth is I still believe in all of it. And I believe that this is a love that can happen between friends, other Christians, strangers, family, addicts, the homeless, the wealthy, the not-I. I believe this is a love that can infuse a religious life with meaning and connection to the One worshiped, until we really know what Jesus meant when He said to abide in Him and He would be our branch of life.

Maybe they were wrong. Maybe love sometimes requires choice and decision and acts of the will, but it begins as…well…love.



  1. reoyon said,

    November 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Love is life in a sense my friend, it is deep, it hurts, it transcends all moral obligations, and yet limits the very thing we want, Hope. Which in most aspects may be a good thing and may not. We are creatures of habit and to have faith in someone included with our faith in God is only natural. It truly brings happiness, but I believe it is the conclusion you come to eventually. Before I met my wife, I had the same exact thoughts as you. There is a certain truth that rings in your wisdom. Though, trust me when I say that when you find who God intended for you, your outlook on every aspect of exisitence begins to change. Even your relationship with He Above All Others. It becomes stronger and a bond the likes of which you have never seen. I just hope you can feel it someday. You among all of my friends deserve it the most.

    • MandyK said,

      November 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Insightful and wise beyond your years as always my friend 🙂

  2. November 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I just reread Blue Like Jazz, which is chock full of goodness. One item is that Don Miller talks about falling in love, which he says is both a choice and something that happens to you. I think that he has a point. I’m not sure that either (the passionate or the rational) should be more ultimate. (But then, I’m a fan of equal ultimacy in a number of areas.)

    That being said, yes, I do think that rationality has triumphed in Christian circles these days, or at least in the ones I’ve moved in. I’ve actually told people that I want to see “stupid” when they’re in love, or I doubt if they’re really in love. (I also think that it’s the role of the community to help guide people in love around the negative consequences of their being stupid, which gives them the safety to be stupid in all the positive senses.)

    Many years ago, I read an article by Joel Belz (IIRC) talking about talking about marriage to our children. And he said that, yeah, marriage is a choice and commitment and hard work and blah blah blah all that, but that we’re doing our children a disservice if that’s all we say. He said that marriage is supposed to be a little piece of heaven, and it absolutely can be.

    So, yes, I totally validate you in your romantic, passionate notions about love. Don’t settle for anything less.

  3. susan1gb said,

    November 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I enjoyed reading your thought process and I’m wishing you an enjoyable journey as you find your answer. Maybe it’s okay if the answer is a little different for everyone. Best wishes.

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