CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Falling in Love
Lea Ann McCombs
The whole concept of being "in love" is actually relatively new. For centuries, most marriages were arranged by parents or agreed upon by the couple, based on the suitability of the partners for a good marriage. What history tells us is that the majority of those marriages were successful, and love often bloomed after the wedding.
Our western fantasy of "falling in love" as the basis of marriage, and the expectation that those feelings will sustain through the life of the marriage, has led to countless heartaches and disappointments. Research has found that the ecstatic feeling of being "in love" is an emotional state that can only be sustained by the human heart for a maximum of two years. So no matter how earth-shattering those feelings are at the start, they will change over time. Wise couples use that time of blissful infatuation to continue building a foundation of trust, sacrifice, and spiritual connection in order to build the kind of love that will keep them together. Real love is a much stronger bond than infatuation.
The Bible gives a few examples of people who fell in love before marriage, some good and some bad. The story of Jacob and Rachel is one good example (Genesis 29:16-18). Their relationship appears to have been love at first sight, and Jacob was willing to do just about anything to win her hand in marriage. Rachel's father agreed to the marriage if Jacob would work for him for seven years (v. 20). The Bible says that those seven years "seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her."
What we can learn from this is that infatuation can become real love. Infatuation is based on the feelings another person evokes in us. Real love is demonstrated by how much a person is willing to sacrifice for the one they love. This kind of sacrifice is not moral compromising, as many broken-hearted girls have learned. This is a self-sacrifice of patience and service for the good of the one you love. Jacob was willing to meet a greedy father's demands, wait patiently for his bride, and play by the rules to earn the right to be her husband. He didn't try to manipulate the situation, con her into rebelling against her father, or try to sleep with her anyway. Real love is mature, not an emotional impulse.
Samson is a negative example of falling in love (Judges 16:4). Delilah was not the kind of woman he should have been seeking. But he allowed his lust and passion to dictate his emotions and ended up destroying his life. His emotions were strong, but it was not real love. She had an agenda and thought first of how she could benefit. Infatuation often evolves into a self-centered agenda when either partner turns out to be a disappointment. When real life cannot sustain those enamored fantasies, we often end up rejecting the very person we swore we were "in love" with.
Falling in love is thrilling and distracting, and it seems as though you will feel his way forever. Experience proves that is not true. Our brains produce certain hormones and chemicals when we connect with someone in a special way. Those chemicals make us feel good, similar to taking a drug. And we want to repeat the experience. But our bodies adjust over time and regulate those chemicals so that we're not getting the same rush we did at first. If the couple is not wise enough to put God at the center of the relationship, they will usually begin to fight and blame the other for not making them feel great anymore. That is the downside of the whole concept of "falling in love."
Especially when you are young, the excitement of falling in love can become its own goal. When the thrill wears off, the couple breaks up. And the process begins again. This was never God's plan when he created this mysterious man/woman attraction (Genesis 2:22-24). He designed us to find that one person we commit our lives to and experience all the thrills and stages of love with one person. When we violate that plan over and over again, we end up with tattered hearts that may not be able to fully connect with only one person for life. Too much mistrust and damage has been done. When we focus too much on that head-over-heels feeling, we miss it when it's gone, and crave to find it again. Often people fall in love with the feeling, not the person, and end up hurting people and leaving a string of broken relationships behind.
God is the very embodiment of love. We can look to Him to find out exactly what love looks like. John 3:16 encapsulates the whole meaning of love when it begins, "For God so loved the world that He gave..." God loves us even when we are unlovable. He gave us His most precious gift, His Son, because it was in our best interest. Love gives what the other needs, even at the expense of what you want. A man who truly loves a woman will refrain from violating her purity before marriage because he is putting her value and the future of the relationship ahead of his own desires. A guy who dares a woman to "prove her love" by sinning sexually does not love her. He loves only himself.
A woman who truly loves a man will refrain from dressing seductively and enticing him to commit immorality. Even if she does not plan to sin sexually, she is still stirring up lust, and that is not loving. That is called "defrauding" and Scripture warns us about that (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
We can learn a lot about real love by studying God's character and by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. We can also evaluate whether someone truly loves us by comparing their claims with the Bible's definition.
Falling in love is a wonderful thing — only when it has a deeper foundation than emotion. When those strong feelings are the basis for an enduring love relationship, they are healthy. When "falling in love" is sought simply for the excitement it produces, it is unhealthy. But either way, that feeling should never be mistaken for the real thing. Real love develops over time. After sickness, arguments, bad hair days, conflict, hard times, and self-sacrifice people can begin to determine whether that feeling is real. It is important that the very young avoid giving much credibility to those feelings of being "in love." Too many times they make major life decisions based upon those feelings that they regret forever.
Feelings come and go. The decisions we make based upon those feelings may stay with us forever. Be wise! Wait for real love.
Image Credit: Clapagare; "Sur Les Memes Traces (In the Same Footsteps)"; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Family-Life | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 2-9-15