With Valentines Day right around the corner the theme of love is vibrating in the air. And in many people’s hearts. And perhaps whether you are young or old, you may be thinking about receiving or sending a Valentines card.
If it’s the latter here is a little poem you could consider: “I’ll walk the deserts of Palestine, I’ll drink a bottle of turpentine, I’ll even sit on a porcupine, if only you’ll be my Valentine!”
As we think about the joys, delights and wonders of romantic love it is also worth registering some deeper truths related to the theme of love as a whole.
Our real need
Actually, life for most people, when you stop to think about it, is a search for love. At our deepest levels we know that our real need is for a relatedness in love which will eliminate our feelings of isolation and meaninglessness.
Paul Tournier, the Swiss psychiatrist, describes a visit to him by a United Nations diplomat. Surrounded by people, parties, beautiful women and political big-wigs, this fellow suddenly got fed up with the phoney sham of it all and went to Tournier for help.
“I’m looking for life,” he said, “I am not living a real life at all.” Then he confessed: “Only on rare occasions have I succeeded in having a sense of real life, and that is when I have been in love. And even then the spell was broken almost at once, because I realised that it was not really love I was looking for, but life: love was just one more pretence – and in order to keep even that, my words and attitudes had to be carefully calculated: I had to play the game of love in the way the woman expected me to: to give way to her whims in order to please her: or else she had to follow mine in order not to lose me. And so life escapes us just when we think it is in our grasp.”
Our friend’s search for life via romantic love still left him feeling incomplete and locked in the prison of his separateness.
Multiplied millions like him have the same experience. They involve themselves in one desperate attempt after another to terminate separateness. And the greater the intensity of the effort, the deeper the sense of separateness. The gap, if bridged at all, is only momentarily so.
Putting the cart before the horse
But suppose humans were in fact made, designed and destined for primary relatedness with God, and only secondary relatedness with their fellows and their world, then might this not explain why seeking ultimate answers and meaning in human relatedness just does not work? We are making the secondary primary. We are putting the cart before the horse. We are taking the immediate and trying to make it ultimate. We are looking to the finite and not the infinite. We are latching on to the temporal at the expense of the eternal. We are in fact back to front and upside down. No wonder we are dizzy.
St Augustine, who searched desperately for answers in drink, sex, academics and a host of other things finally realised after finding Christ: “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”
Facing the vacuum in his own heart which nothing finite could fill, Pascal finally concluded that it was “a God-shaped vacuum.” Only God could fill it. And this is precisely what the Bible says. The relationship which we know we so desperately need and cannot find is in fact a relationship with the God who made us for Himself and designed us to live in fellowship with Him. Once we get that right, everything else falls into place.
However we must first face the fact that human self-will, independence and assertiveness have disrupted our relationship with God. Man is separated from God. Guilt, blame, fear and shame stand between us and God. But wonder of wonders, the redemptive work of God, culminating in Jesus’ death on the Cross, has one aim – to bring wayward man back to the God who “is love” (1 John 4:8).
What is our part? Our part is to surrender to Christ in repentance and faith. In crowning Him Lord of all we enter that primary love-relationship which transforms all human loves and gives them special and abiding meaning.
And that includes most especially the precious gift of romantic love which needs to be enriched by Divine Love if it is to survive and last over a lifetime. I will talk about this more in my next article.