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March 26, 2007

I had a friend ask me a question the other day… It was about “falling in love”. I’m not a person who gives a great deal of credibility to emotional decisions. I know they happen, know I do it too. But I don’t believe we “fall in love”. I have fallen several times in my life. Once I broke my leg and another time I broke my glasses. Falling isn’t very much fun.

See, the difference is that Love has very little to do with emotion. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Love is… patient, kind, gentle and so on. It doesn’t say Love… is elevated blood pressure, heightened sexual tension and exotic chocolate truffles. Love is not an endorphin. Love is not a feeling. Love is the tangible expression of an conscious, if intangible, commitment to another being. An expression of our devotion toward Father/Mother/Sibling /Spouse/Child/Friend.

How do I make this work in relationships? Well, take your libido out of the equation and simply look practically at a romantic relationship. Or at least the possible beginning of one. Jane meets John. John is taller than she is, has dark hair, wears decent clothes and looks like he actually cares about his appearance. Nice smile. He looks at her face first, not her cup size. Hm… John seems nice. Jane makes a little decision. She’ll talk to John. John is polite and interesting with a sense of humor. Jane makes another decision. She’ll continue to talk to John and she’ll start sharing bits about her self. John sees common interests, a pretty girl and makes a decision. He asks her out for coffee/lunch/drinks. They’ve now known each other for 20 minutes and they’ve already made a series of small choices. Choices which keep them talking, interacting and looking forward.

Jane now makes another decision… See where this is going? The series of small decisions have led up to a larger one. And it keeps going for each of us. One small decision after another builds or destroys the foundation. Girls, don’t be stupid. If a guy is single, finds you interesting enough to ask out for whatever, he’s not thinking he just made a new friend. Someone to go shopping with and share deep secrets. He’s not a girl. He is thinking that maybe, just maybe, YOU might be the Find of His Life and he’s willing to expend copious amounts of energy and resources if he finds you worth it. But if you “just want to be friends” and you think you can just enjoy his time, money and interest with nothing required of you? Then you probably deserve to be alone with your 4 cats. If a guy wants a friend? He’ll find someone who would have his back in a bar fight, be the “wing man” and hide a body if necessary. If he’s asking you out for dinner? He’s not looking for a “friend”. He’s looking for a companion, a future and possibly a destiny.

As a believer, I hope by this time she or he would have taken the time to know if this other, interesting person was spiritually compatible before they embark on the next step. NOW is the great time to say “thanks but no thanks” and avoid the pain which would inevitably come in 2 weeks, 3 years, a decade. But even if they don’t, there are still quite a few decisions to be made along the way. Primarily, how close to this person should I get before I run the risk of an emotional entanglement which is detrimental to both my spiritual well-being and his ability to be drawn toward Christ. To speak plainly, will my witness or lack thereof have a positive or negative impact on his eternal destiny? Or will my desire for “relationship” be the focal point of my interaction with this person. Sadly, and all too often, the relationship takes precedence and the non-believer is subjected again to the hypocrisy and absence of character which so often more clearly defines an unmarried believer than not. Or it could be the flirtatious married believer who is just “having fun” and not “serious”. Just looking to “feel good” about herself/himself. Pathetic. And nauseating.

Love is an action. Many times it is the culmination of a series of small and seemingly insignificant choices. How many times do we say “yes” when a “no” was more appropriate? How many times do we say “no” by action or inaction when a direct “yes” was required? Love doesn’t happen to us. We “happen” when we choose to love.

In adult, romantic relationships we allow ourselves to become entangled in the lives of others with or without consciously making thoughtful and careful decisions. However, we do make those decisions. We allow ourselves to form attachments and bonds which are not easily and rarely painlessly broken. That’s not the problem. That’s good! That’s a blessing which G-d has given us. The ability to choose to love, to connect and to be part of another person’s life is a gift! Animals don’t have that freedom. Slaves don’t have the freedom to choose their associations. We are neither animals nor slaves. But we can behave as either or both. Animal desires, slaves to our emotional well-being and never taking responsibility for our own actions.

If I were to believe we can “fall into love” then, as with most accidents, we find regret and learn from our mistakes.

Right?

We could even go so far as to “correct the wrong”. Can you end up married to someone and believe you made the wrong choice? Of course you can. But just be honest about who, exactly, made that choice and try to suck it up and be a grown up about it. G-d is quite capable of turning “irreconcilable differences” into “compatibility”. Relationships aren’t like taking a wrong turn and mis-reading the map. What the hell am I doing in Poughkeepsi? I meant to be in Detroit!

Relationships require your involvement and your consent. Don’t be a dork and assume I’m talking about the forced intimacy which often takes place at work or even among those who serve in your spiritual congregation. I’m talking, in this little post, about the relationships over which we have a say. Romantic, familial, friendships… And yet, all too often, I hear people talking about how “powerless” they are in the face of these relationships. It’s sad. I don’t care for “accidental friends” but I hold dearly my “intentional” friends. I’m not married by chance, I’m married by choice. I stay that way in my heart and in my actions through daily choices. I got that way through a series of choices. I got within a hairs breadth of losing it because of more of my own foolish choices.

We are not autonomous beings. We long for and intensely desire the companionship of another. If you are single and are eagerly hoping for G-d to bless you with a spouse you desire a good thing! Don’t settle for a good feeling and end up with a lifetime of regret.

If you are married and desire more companionship than your spouse offers? As a believer you don’t have the freedom to find intimate companionship in a person other than your spouse. Don’t look for your deepest and richest fellowship to come from your best friend, your co-leader in the bible study or the youth group. Look for it in G-d and ask Him to show you where to find it in your spouse. It can be fairly miraculous. Trust me. I know. There was a time, not too long ago, when I prayed every day G-d would show me how to love my husband. Literally every day I prayed this. For months. And then one day, in January, I woke up next to the most interesting, amazing man I’d ever met. I have followed him around like a groupie ever since. G-d put my emotions in line with my choices. He’ll do the same for you. Or you can let your emotions dictate your choices and find yourself in places you didn’t imagine. And it will take quite a bit of doing to get yourself untangled.

Which will require more little choices, with a grander goal in mind. Or small choices with no goal and the resulting catastrophe.