Friday, November 14, 2008

How Do I Love Thee?

No seriously, how do I love another human being?

This has been the hot button issue around the office of late, facilitating deep and heated conversations around the lunch hour which more than occasionally spill over into happy hour...

What does it mean to love someone? And what should love look like, properly executed?

Our modern sensibilities and a steady upbringing of Disney animated classics render an exciting version of romantic love, complete with scored musical numbers and great clothes.

But real love, the good stuff that keeps marriages going strong 50 + years, this appears to be made of something else. Something sweeter but laced with a bitter tang of suffering.

A guy in his late twenties, married for a couple of years and father to a couple of kids, made somewhat of an astonishing statement yesterday, entering late into the conversation.

"Marriage isn't about being happy. It isn't fulfilling - it's emptying. That's the point, you're pouring everything out into your spouse, and you're doing it without expecting anything in return."

He said this quite matter-of-factly, finishing the last of his soda and casually tossing it in the trash. he wandered back out of the conversation a few minutes later, but the impact resonated through the rest of our discussion. In a few succinct words, this young husband and father had summed up the crux of theology of the body, and infused some reality into all our hypothesizing and philosophizing.

It doesn't sound all that difficult... until you realize that it's actually impossible, without God's grace. And utterly contrary to everything our culture teaches about romantic love and its unique ability to satisfy and ultimately fulfill.

I wonder how many marriages could be rescued from - or before - the brink of disaster by applying his recipe for domestic bliss: Pour yourself out. Don't expect anything in return. Repeat as often as necessary.

I think he nailed it. In all his masculine simplicity, (translation: bluntness) he communicated the heart of John Paul II's treatise on human love and life. And he was able to speak it because he was living it... which is totally hot.


  1. Astute observation. I teach TOB in my HS Senior class, and am often impressed with how the girls readily recognize authentic "hot" as code for "willing to sacrifice" . . . alas, if only the boys could understand it, and the girls demand it, in the right way . . . as in, "I'm worth more, and you're better than what our culture suggests!"

  2. Jenny, I love this post. So simple. So true. So beautiful. I agree it would be nice to spread the word, but I fear that for so many people who approach suffering and sacrifice with utter disdain, they might reject this notion of love at first when you try to tell them about it. They would protest, "But that's so unromantic; I don't want THAT kind of love." But I guess the hope is that hey might begin to stop and look around and realize that this hollywood version of "love" that they've been sold- this fulfilling and painless love- well, it just plain isn't working... I also feel like maybe the deeper vision that needs to be spread (in our pill-popping, pain avoidant world) involves the beauty and transformative power of suffering. If only we (and I definitely include myself in this) would embrace suffering instead of running from it! Now THAT would change EVERYTHING!

  3. Jenny, the title of your post is instructive, because "how" is clearly the question we need so much more than the frequent "why" which most often leads to a "me" answer. Our culture is fixated on self-esteem at the expense of self-respect and self-giving. The paradox is how those who are able to empty themselves for others' good seem the most genuinely fulfilled. Hmmm...

  4. Wait, you get to go to happy hour?

  5. Oh, and I would like to share this: my friend asked his dad in middle school, "Can you describe marriage in one word?" Without skipping a beat, his dad said, "Sacrifice." Today's common answer to the same question is, "ME! ME! ME!"
    (Okay that's not one word, but jobs isn't a three letter word either, and I'm just following the model of my brilliant vice president).

  6. You have done a wonderful job of addressing this lunch time topic, Jenny. It's a topic that should be considered more frequently and with greater concern. As a broken product of divorce this news of suffering within marriage has not settled in me even after a few days. Thankfully we serve a God whose law is goodness, truth, beauty, love and stability. I know these convos are touching our officemates and drawing others out of the culture-induced coma that serves to render us unable to partake in the life God has for us.

  7. Jenny-Great post!! You're right- as much as I love Disney (see: my lastest silly post), the Disney-fied notiong of "happily ever after" is a tad ridiculous and not at all Christian.

    Trying to convey to someone (especially the middle and high schoolers I work with) that love is not about flowers and candy or sexual chemistry but rather about GIVING of oneself is incredibly exasperating. I mean, I certainly don't love other people perfectly or in a completely selfless way.

    A talk I heard in college started out (using powerpoint) with a montage of "mushy romantic" images- kissing couples, flowers, gifts, the usual. The presenter said, "You think that's love? Really? *This* is love," and then he flipped to a picture of Jesus on the Cross. Quite an effect!

  8. I have a ridiculously intelligent audience... kind of daunting, all things considered. :)


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