In this Installment, I want to talk about love. As a human we can love many things.
We can love a sport. We can love a song. We love our parents. We love our children. We love our friends. We love our job. We love our country. We can love a specific period of time.
That’s just to name a few. From that, we as humans, can love pretty much anything.
But what is love?
Many believers turn to 1 Corinthians 13 to define love.
Well, that is not enough. That description simply is not good enough, because that description falls short.
Why? For one major reason: love does not – no matter how many believers quote that passage- love does not, because it cannot, believe all things.
Since love cannot and will not believe all things, then what is love?
Some will say that love is sacrificial. In other words, love sacrifices from its self in order to receive love. In some instances, that might very well be true.
But here is the truth, love can sacrifice all day, all week, all month, all year, all decade long, yet that same love will reach a point that if it is not reciprocated, it will stop sacrificing.
Love might very well endure with something for a long time. But love is not required to give a continual sacrifice in the hopes that another will respond. Tough thing – love.
That makes me think of another thing some people say. Some might say there is tough love, meaning that to love another sometimes you have to do the hard thing and let that other person experience the failure of their own decisions.
Sometimes that seems true. Sometimes to love requires that others have to see the outcome of their lives.
Some might even claim that tough love is what they have done with me during the last five years or so.
I raise the horse-pucky flag on that one. I’ve discussed this over and again, so I won’t articulate the argument. But, in essence, what we’re divided on is about what the Scriptures condemn and what the Scriptures prohibit.
The only way, and I mean the ONLY way, that the Scriptures condemn a man from having multiple wives is when the religious community takes the Scriptures and makes them say something that the Scriptures do not say.
So I will say that what I am doing in response to their tough love is being tough with love. I will not, because I cannot, make wrong that which God never condemns. Therefore, to embrace tough love is to become and embody the marital love that is Biblically permitted.
So what is martial love?
Believers, over and again, turn to the pages of the Bible to describe marital love. I have seen it. I have heard the lessons.
I have also seen every group fail to embody good examples of martial love. Oh, some will say that failure occurs because marriage is made of up of humans. I say, Bah!
The issue is that marital love involves things like 1 Corinthians 13 and things like sacrifice. But because marital love is so much more than those two things, the Apostle Paul spoke of marriage being a great mystery.
That’s right, the Apostle Paul claimed that marriage is a mystery (Ephesians 5.32). Yet, I don’t think I have ever -not once ever- heard a religious leader publically deliver that little ditty from the pages of the Scriptures.
And you see that is the issue. Public presentation of the Scriptures is formulated, structured, and sanitized for public consumption.
Many religious types lament the manner in which the media portrays news items, yet have never considered the reality of the manner in which religion sanitizes the text of the Bible. The public discourse of the Bible is clean, neat, pretty, and perfect.
Think I joke? Simply ask the local congregation to read Ezekiel 23.18-21 and give an exegetical sermon from that passage. Or utilize the Song of Solomon and present a sexually healthy marital relationship as a Sunday morning series.
Neither of those will happen, at least not in my neck of the woods. Yet, the Bible contains many nuggets of unsettling drama. The Scriptures are anything but sanitized, even though the Biblical text reveals the nature of God.
Yet, Christianity in particular, laments the failure of the Church to be relevant. Well? Be relevant. Get in the trenches, get involved, and stop playing in a safety bubble. If the Prophets and the Kings can speak and record “lurid” details for God, then so should the church.
The point is God is not afraid of us. We’re afraid of us. God is not afraid of speaking in dramatic fashion to gain our attention. Yet, we want to play all neat and tidy thinking we’re going to win over people. Yet all the while we’re afraid to get nitty-gritty.
Since the church seems primarily focused on the neat and tidy, to me, it’s no wonder that it can’t fathom the Biblical reality of a man having multiple wives, and that such a marital arrangement doesn’t bother Jehovah.
Sorry I digressed. I will return to my discussion about marital love.
Marital love is not only sensual, it is real, it is tangible, it is felt, it is seen, it is knowable.
Trials always find their way into a marriage. Hell, a trial could simply be a loss of job, or a loss of health. But depending on finances, either one of those trials could spell d-o-o-m for that marriage.
Heaven forbid that a loss of job occur with a loss of health, because that is a double-whammy. When the love between partners is not strong, not only do their eyes not light up, when trials occur, they flirt with ways to end their marriage.
But it is the love that allows the trials to be survived. So what is marital love?
Love is a kiss. Love is a smile. Love is gazing into the other’s eyes. Love is the touch of finger tips.
Love is praying together. Love is discussing the Almighty. Love is pursuing righteousness.
Love is having dinner together. Love is sharing life together. Love is watching TV together.
Love is sharing time with the children. Love is discussing life. Love is participating in their success.
Love is bandaging scrapped knees. Love is picking up the fallen. Love is healing the hurt.
Love is walking through the fields. Love is sitting together on a park bench.
Love is facing the challenges together. Love is overcoming those challenges together.
Love is holding hands. Love is laughing together. Love is crying together.
Love is walking the endless mile. Love is sitting together in old age.
Love is assisting the lover who is ill. Love is watching a lover move on from this life.
Love lives. Love breathes. Love acts. Love does.
Love weeps. Love rejoices. Love endures.
But love cannot be alone.
Some are truly blessed to find that kind of love.
That love doesn’t last a lifetime. That love lasts forever.
With that in mind, I want to share something from my prayer back on May 23, 2015 (Month 3 Day 5). I share uninterrupted what the Divine conveyed:
Now consider this: a bird flew in the air. Found a tree out of despair. The tree was rotten, falling down, no leaves, no shade, no home. The bird thought she…
During the prayer, I replied: ‘she’?
The Divine responded:
she could stay. But found out that she needed to leave. But leaving meant flying somewhere she’d never been. To find another tree meant leaving the only thing she knew, even if the tree was bare.
Another bird landed and said, ‘Why are you here? Lush life is over there.’
She thought for a few, but didn’t believe.
Another bird arrived and said, ‘Come with me and I’ll show you the way.’
She almost left with that one, but stayed on dead tree, the likes of which no one wants to see.
But this other bird, a cocky sort of fellow, landed on her branch, sat down next to her and said, ‘I love you. Come with me.’
She recoiled in despair: ‘love, love for me. How can that be?’ She shooed him away.
But undeterred was he. He returned sometime later, sat down next to her and said ‘Are you tired of where you are? I know a place of good rivers and fortune, but you must leave this tree, a shelter it is, not a home – it can’t be. Life, you see, is beyond the setting of this tree. This tree has served its purpose, and its purpose was well, but to fill your heart, your life, you need to fly free and be with me. It’s up to you, you see.’
Now she thought on that again, fatiguing of her plight, growling her stomach was, but couldn’t muster the flight. She said to him, ‘I’d just rather stay, longevity is short, my time draws near. I will wait here for day to become night.’
Flew away, he did. Felt bad for her he did. Flew on to his next stop, but his own heart couldn’t forget how lonely she looked, her own expectations getting in her way. One day he decided to fly to meet her, to greet her, bring her flowers, mint and cumin, hoped it would strengthen her, encourage her and move her heart for him.
She, resolved, undeterred, stalwart in her abode, said ‘Down with this ship I’ll go. So no, I won’t fly to yonder tree.’
Aghast at her unwillingness, he dispersed again, left her alone, but not too long again, wrote her this time, saying how great the view is, how lovely the life is, sent her pictures of the joy he’d found.
Mustered up the courage she did, decided to take flight, in weakness of strength, she decided to fly home, her love story to meet.
Do you understand?
My response? In my journal, I recorded: I think so.
That story is powerful, because it is a powerful picture of love. Personally, I think it does a tremendously better job at describing love than my own efforts above.
Here’s the crazy thing about marital love, in a classic, traditional sense. A man can pursue a woman, but it is the woman who has the power, because the only thing that a man can do is ask, for it is the woman who says either yes or no.
So the picture is a somewhat classic tale of a woman finding herself in a place that she didn’t expect. She experienced the approach of several suitors. But, in turn, each one she turned away. The last fellow, for whatever reason never gave up. But it was the woman who made the decision.
And that right there is the entire history of humanity. Men pursue a woman, but it is the woman who has the power to say yea or nay. Which means no matter the man that pursues, it is her call, when she says yes, her yes usually means forever, which is why “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”
A woman won over expects faithfulness. It is a story of woe and agony. But it is also a story of love abiding.
Love is meeting a woman where she is, with all her hurts, all her turmoil, all her “baggage,” helping her unpack, helping her sort out her tumult, helping her heal from her wounds – giving her not just a life, but life itself.
That is love, in matrimony – her home, her love story.
Blessings and Shalom