Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Is A Choice

Since Valentine's Day is upon us, I thought it appropriate to write about love. Unfortunately, in today's culture we somehow think romance and sexual intimacy are love.  Certainly relationships between men and women who are married involve both, but neither are love; rather both should occur as products of love.

Societal norms say it is acceptable for anyone, at any time to involve themselves in relationships where these emotions are present and where they are equated to love. 

We have bought into this myth that love is uncontrollable, that it's something that just happens to us; it's not something we control. In fact, even the language we use implies the uncontrollability of love. We say, "I fell in love," as if love is some kind of a ditch. It's like I'm walking along one day and bam!—I fell in love. I couldn't help myself. 

The problem with that kind of thinking is this, if one can so easily 'fall into' love does it not stand to reason that one could also 'fall out of' love? 

This explains why divorce and abandonment run rampant in our society.  Love is no longer a sacred commitment but a convient excuse for giving up when the really hard things happen that require dedication to work through in a relationship.  We often hear couple say "I just fell out of love with...." as an explanation for divorce.

I have to tell you the truth: that's not love. Love doesn't just happen to you. Love is a choice and it represents a commitment.  You choose to love and you choose not to love.

There's no doubt about it, attraction is uncontrollable and arousal is uncontrollable. But attraction and arousal are not love. They can lead to love, but they are not love. Love is a choice.  We cannot control whom we are attracted to, or possibly by whom we are aroused.  We can, however, exert control over how we respond to attraction and arousal. defines love as:  
A deep and enduring emotional regard, usually for another person. Love may apply to various kinds of regard: the charity of the Creator, reverent adoration toward God or toward a person, the relation of parent and child, the regard of friends for each other, romantic feelings for another person, etc.
Even today's dictionary uses the words 'romantic feelings' when defining love. This provides witness to what the secular element of our society understands to be love. In deep contrast to this, we can look in the Bible to see what God has to say about love.

I Corinthians 13 is often referred to as the 'Love Chapter' of the Bible.  From that chapter we find the description of love in verses 4 - 7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Do patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope, perseverance, the abscense of envy, boastfulness, pride, rudness, selfishness, anger and unforgivness sound like characteristics one can 'fall into' to you?  They certainly do not to me!  However, these are all the characteristics Paul listed as those belonging to love.

These are characteristics one must cultivate on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.  Therefore, it requires commitment in order to foster and build them into our lives.  In that we have the true meaning of love...the daily, moment-by-moment commitment to practice characteristics which do not come naturally to us, but which require work to display toward others and sometimes toward God as well.

Deuteronomy 30 tells of God speaking to the Israelites as they stood at the Jordan River, preparing to cross into Canaan.  He sets before them the blessings He has in store for them if they love Him and obey Him.  He also sets before them the curses disobedience will bring.  Then, He gives them a choice as seen in verses 19 and 20a: 
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him...
So, we see clearly that love is a choice even in relation to God.  God does not force us to love Him; He offers us the truth about our choices and then leaves us free to choose.  He reminds us that our choices have consequences and that loving Him will require commitment.

If our love relationship with God is a choice that requires commitment, why do we think our relationships with one another should or will be any different?  Many times in our lives we will love people not because we want to, but because we choose to. 

Romantic relationships are no different; marriage is no different.  I was married to Terry for over 33 years.  I woke up every day choosing to love him and keep my commitments to him.  On some of those days, I didn't like him very much, but I kept the commitments I had made to him....I loved him.

There have been some difficult periods in my life when I haven't liked God very much, but I keep the commitments I made to Him on the day He I asked Him to come into my heart and forgive me...I love Him.

Love is a choice that requires commitment and produces contentment and joy in our innermost being.  Whether practiced between an individual and God or between individuals, love is the only choice that can bring true happiness to our lives.


Keetha Broyles said...

You are so right that love is a choice - - - and sometimes it is a lot of really hard work too!

Samantha said...

"Wonderful words of wisdom " Diane.
Yes, is is a choice and a commitment. It is so sad that this day and time so many people dont commit to it as they should.

I am so glad you are back, you know your blog is always a blessing to me and I missed your words that touch my heart. Looking
forward to more great posts from you, so glad you are doing so well.

LOVE YOU cousin and friend.

Deb said...

I really like this post - especially when you said this: "If our love relationship with God is a choice that requires commitment, why do we think our relationships with one another should or will be any different?" So true - so true!

Louise said...

Excellent post my friend. Bless you for taking the time to write so that we might be edified.

Pat said...

What a great post. I couldn't add or subtract from a single thing you write.
I worry about the younger generation, they are flooded with incorrect information and wrong influence regarding love. They need godly examples of what love really is, not the garbage that tv exposes them to!

Constance said...

So glad you're back and doing better! We love you sister! I just got over to your blog today and was surprised that your title is the same as the entry I wrote yesterday! I had a slightly different take on the choices but ultimately our hearts are in unison!

Praying for an exceptionally good week for you!
Love, Connie

Trish said...

What a beautiful Post need to teach Sunday School or a Bible Class!

Trish said...

Di...stop by I have an Award for you!