Cornerstone

"Cultivate a heart that chooses and waits expectantly for delight."

From Augustine to DC Talk, Christians have long been advocates of the idea that love (or "luv", as TobyMac would have it) is a verb. Both were trying to swim against the stream of the culture around them—whether it's the first century or the twenty-first, we humans are easily mastered by our desires. What we feel in the moment is powerful, and denying it is hard. Often, we extrapolate what we feel in one moment to what we want out of life itself: "if I am not happy right now, then something pivotal must change or I will never be happy."

You can see it clearly when you look at the way we treat love and marriage. The way it's "supposed" to go is along these lines: you fall madly in love, you propose in a hot air balloon or with a marching band or something, you have a beautiful ceremony where you confess your undying love, and then you live happily ever after. Unless you don't. If, somewhere along the way, you stop feeling the way you did at first…well, then, the whole thing's off. Because if you are not happy right now, then something pivotal must change or you will never be happy.

The constant comparisons, evaluations, and introspection are back-breaking. "Am I really happy, at this moment?" "Would someone else make me happier?" And that's when everything is fine! When a spouse aggravates you or annoys you—in other words, when a spouse reveals that they have imperfections—the internal dialogue rises to a fever pitch. There was a time when you were intoxicated with love. How do you get that back? For many people, the only answer is to leave what you have and go in search of something better. Whether we look down on it as "trading in for a younger model" or celebrate it as "finding true love," we are mastered by our feelings in the moment.

But what are the other options? Christianity says we are more than our desires. It tells us that love is a verb—and therefore a choice. But for many people, this sounds like cold duty. The world tells you to find an intoxicating love, no matter what it takes, and be blissfully happy. Does Christianity tell you to do your job, and stop caring if you enjoy your marriage?

In Proverbs, a father writes down all the wisdom his son will need to live well in the real world. The idea is that the son would benefit from his father's experience, avoiding the need to learn "the hard way." And in Proverbs 5, the father writes this:

"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." – Proverbs 5:15-19

Two things are immediately clear. First, the father is commanding his son to love his wife. TobyMac was right; apparently loving someone is something you can choose to do. Second, the father is commanding his son to be intoxicated by his wife. It's more than duty, it's delight. The word "intoxicated" is literally "be led astray," as though you were going one way but saw something so enticing you decided to go another. The Bible commands you: be swept away by your desire for your spouse. Choosing to love is choosing to be intoxicated by your spouse. The father commands his son, "You have everything you need for an intoxicating, joyous, delightful love right there at home. Go get intoxicated."

Dealing With Desire

So the Bible says we can choose to be incredibly excited about the spouse we have right now. How does that work, exactly? What do we do when we just don't feel intoxicated with our spouse?

The Bible gives us at least two ways forward. First, it tells us that choice comes before cherishing, not after. Parenting is a great illustration of this: children are born with almost nothing desirable. They won't let you sleep, but they can sleep whenever they want. They come with spit up, dirty diapers, and surprisingly effective vocal cords. And when they use those vocal cords at 2am, you don't have to get up. You can turn off the monitor and go back to sleep. But you do get up. Why? Because you choose to. You choose to over and over and over again, and you find yourself cherishing that child more and more!

But what happens when your spouse acts like a baby? Often, you aren't intoxicated with your spouse because you stopped choosing. Choosing to love again begins the process of finding your spouse intoxicating.

The second path the Bible gives us even more central. The only way you will choose to love—to truly love, as God loves—is if you see how God has loved you in Jesus. The gospel, in which Jesus saw you with nothing desirable, yet set his affection upon you and died in your place so you could be with him forever, frees you to truly love your spouse. God's unbelievable choice of you results in his unbelievable affection for you—he even sings over you (Zeph 3:17). When you are freed by the gospel to love your spouse truly, you will find yourself with an even greater intoxication, patterned after God's delight in you.

What does this mean practically? Love is a verb, and it's a glorious one. Cultivate a heart that grasps the height, depth, and breadth of God's love for you. Cultivate a heart that chooses and waits expectantly for delight. Read your Bible, write a love note, do the dishes, and follow Jesus. Choose to rejoice in the wife (or husband) of your youth, and find yourself growing in intoxication.

Brian Colmery

Brian serves the church by overseeing preaching and Sunday morning services at Cornerstone.

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