My Patient Partner,
We humans love love. We are designed in the image of the infinite-love himself, to love and be loved by him, and to love like him. When we receive love from others, our souls resonate with joy, for we are created to give and receive love. We long for love.
But so often, we mistake passion for love. In our culture, when we singles say “I am in love” it most often means “I feel passionately about this person”. I understand why. Love is quiet, safe, accepting, forgiving, patient, and a decision to make, sometimes in the face of challenging circumstance. Passion is hot, hormone heavy, intense, a rush of pleasure and emotion, unmistakable, and a reaction to circumstances, not a decision. So I understand how we humans confuse passion for love. The two accompany each other in most romances, but passion is noticed in the intense burning enjoyment of another while love is most noticeable in the midst of pain and difficulty. Of course we long for the ease and thrill of passion.
Passion dies, however. Love can last for a lifetime, because it is a decision and won’t burn out, but passion is like burning paper; it will consume itself and become cold again if given a little time. At this point, romances are revealed as either passion or true love. True love isn’t a sustained burning passion, but the glowing embers that remain when the kindling burns out.
Why then do our relationships go from passion to passion? We profess that we want to find that life-long love, but we base our dating decisions almost solely on how many beats per minute our heart rate elevates around someone. Then, when we come down off of the high, we break up to find someone who will give us a new rush. Could it be that the ENTIRE dating culture has become built around passion and not love? I am not talking about dating the world’s way, I am talking about Christians, courtship, everything. Courtship can become a rule-soaked passion for another bottled so tightly by rules and admirable restraint that it has no outlet, no oxygen, no way to burn, and so the couple never discovers if they love each other; because they can’t see past the repressed, unexpressed passion. At the marriage, they kiss, then they go have a lot of sex, and that bottled passion is finally given the room to breathe and consume itself. Then, after a few months, they wonder “who am I married to?” and “why is our love fading away so quickly?” Was the love ever there, or was it just passion?
I hate to say it, but I think Christianity is doing a worse job at this than the world. If you aren’t a Christian, it is legitimate to be looking just to “hook up”. That’s just an honest chasing of the high of passion, and is remarkably well constructed to achieve the stated goal. If you are a Christian, though, you can’t have hooking up as your end goal. Hopefully, you are looking for love. Then why are so many of us only considering dates with those we would want to hook up with, if we would let ourselves?
What if, instead, we looked for lovable qualities in our prospective dates, and let passion ebb and flow on top of the solid foundational coals of love? What if we went on dates with amazing people we felt NOTHING towards, knowing that the feelings will follow if we decide to pursue a relationship? Is this radical? Is this throwback? Is this timeless? Is this foolishness?
I don’t know, but the lack of meaningful leadership and vision in “Christian Singleness” has resulted in an incompatible promise of the worst of both worlds. We learn to evaluate through a (largely) unchallenged worldly lens of thrill seeking while nurturing a deep, Godly desire for lifelong Christian love and companionship. Meanwhile, in the real world (i.e. outside your youth group), we are legitimately confused when we have a series of broken relationships with fantastic people who sent our heart a-twitter, but failed to kindle the coals of love and commitment. We have believed the pervasive, false promise of our Christian age that if we A) stay pure ’till marriage and B) marry a Christian and C) keep a boatload of rules added to the mix that only confuse and shame those of poor self-control, then D) We will have life-long passion with the love of our life. I am sick of these lies! I want the hot, scalding passion. But more, I want the deep, intimate, and quiet love of and for an amazing woman of God. When I find it, there will be many periods throughout our life and marriage of amazing passion and heat and fireworks. There will also be seasons of waning passion. During those warm-ember times, instead of panicking that “the thrill is gone“, I will still be with my best friend and trusted companion. What does it matter if one of those times of companionship rather than burning passion is right at the beginning?
Don’t even get me STARTED on the media-sustained passion-substitute called drama.
Frustrated, but honored to have had your ear and attention,
A Christian Guy