Now, what would a February Bible study be without a little love advice. Here’s the advice about love, do it! Okay, just kidding. There is more to it than that. Jimmy Evans wrote a great little book a few years ago on marriage called “Our Secret Paradise.” In it he describes the ways to rekindle and retain true passion in your love life. In it he writes, “Many people think that ‘chemistry’ is the reason we fall in love with each other. It’s true that chemistry may have been the reason we were initially attracted to each other, physically or emotionally. That kind of attraction is often how we match up with someone. But it is not the reason we fall in love.”
Doris and I spent a wonderful weekend doing a marriage retreat for the Nashville Indian Fellowship. We met some pretty neat people, a beautiful young couple named Babu and Sophia, a tremendously gifted pair named Santosh and Dora. Couples of all ages, some married a long time, some just months. It was a blast. We laughed and talked and sang and ate (really hot food) and just had an all around good time.
Here’s the interesting thing, most of these couples were in what we would call “arranged” marriages. Sometime back two sets of parents said, “My son and your daughter seem to make sense together so they will be married.” Where’s the chemistry in that? The funny thing is that this group was like any other marriage retreat we have done. Some were doing great, they have been married a long time and are seemingly deeply in love. Some are still arguing about who takes out the trash and how much you should spend on shoes. And some are brand new, starry eyed and have no clue what is ahead of them. In other words, whether we started with chemistry of contract we often end up in the same place.
That discussion of chemistry prompted me to think about the stages of love that I often see in any relationship. And the choices we make to get us there. First there is the “I love you because” phase. Our eyes meet. She’s hot. He’s a hunk. He has a nice car. She has a nice boat. Whatever the reason, there is a “reason” for our love. We choose to spend time with that person, see the best in that person, be our best for that person.
The next phase is “I love you if.” This is the phase that is based on mutual benefit. There are some promises we made at the beginning; great sex, breakfast in bed, frequent oil changes, take out the trash. (And that was just Doris’s part.) As long as those basic needs are met I love you. We choose to stay connected as long as we get what we want from the deal.
Sometimes that stuff doesn’t work out. Then comes the “I love you in spite of” phase. You’ve blown it. You aren’t the Mister Perfect that I thought you would be. You’ve gained 20 pounds and snore like a freight train. But I love you anyway. We feel really good about ourselves when we reach this stage. It’s kind of all about me in that sense. I love you in spite of the fact that you are bad and I am good. So, I feel even more good! We choose to keep ourselves in the one up position. He was an idiot but i stayed with him anyway. She messed up but I’m the better person.
Finally comes the “I love you” stage. No conditions, reasons, or history. Just I love you. There is a total surrender to the other, a giving of myself completely. A real and genuine love. There is no comparison and no describing this kind of love. That too is a choice. And sadly, far too few of us ever reach this point. But when we do… there is chemistry. It seems to me that each one of those phases is more about commitment than chemistry, more about decisions that destiny. Somewhere along the way we just make up our minds that this is a good hearted person and I am going to commit myself to him or her. The really cool thing is, that works. We “fall” in love, and more importantly, stay in love because we decide to. Much the same way that God chose to love each one of us.
So, go love your significant other today. Choose to treat her like a princess, treat him like a prince. Decide to love, honor and respect him/her. Just do it and better yet, remember that God loves you just that way. Mike