1. I Think Just When You Think You Get It, Another Layer Falls Off
a. We think we feel love when we're teenagers. Then we find we're only looking at a reflection of our self desire in the mirror.
b. We hit our twenties and the feelings become more intense, pushing down our minds and rationality--we feel it, so it must be true. And it is, but it's only the half of it--if that.
c. But then hurt awakens our very souls, and we realize that in order to love the way we ourselves desire to be loved, we must do the work.
d. And in the midst of doing the work, we find it to be the loveliest and grittiest work we've ever done.
2. I Think We All Rue The Day We Discovered Love Was Not Warm and Fuzzy
a. Somehow our culture has forgotten that love discerns, and does not celebrate untruth.
b. Somehow our culture can't get past casting love around in the fuzzy sense, as if denying its immovability will make it change form.
c. Love that does not discern is not love at all. That's called selfishness.
d. Somehow we fail to rest in God's love and all that it entails: justice, discipline, wrath, holy jealousy, and a willingness to die, over and over.
3. I Think These Things Remain Indispensable In Encouraging Love
a. A saucy love song
b. A good fight
c. Kissing and making up ... or was that, making out?
4. I think loving your wife like Christ loves the church requires:
a. Deep daily prayer
b. Long solitary walks
c. Allowing for full season marathons of Alias, Nashville, and Downtown Abbey
d. Supernatural awareness of your own idiocy
e. Random kissing session in the closet
f. Random kissing on airplanes
g. Random kissing wherever
5. I think we underestimate the value of saying "I love you"
a. I've learned this lesson from my two oldest pixies who, at completely random times will walk into my office, lay their heads on my lap and simply say, "Daddy, I love you." Then, they exit, smiling.
b. It does something to me to hear it from them. How they offer it up, almost like it's part of their breathing. How they mean it with everything in them.
c. I want to say, "I love you" more. I want to say it like breathing. I want to hear the words ring in my ears so that the sound can crack my stubborn heart.
d. I think it's easy to forget to tell our families and friends that we love them. Why? Saying "I love you" is simple, free, and we should do say it daily.
6. I think these books are required reading for all married couples, lovey-dovey couples, or couples thinking about becoming couples
7. I think we'd be wise to remember Sheldon Vanauken's "glass of water"
a. In his book A Severe Mercy I was struck by the promise he made to his wife, Davey, and how she, then, promised it back to him as well: Whenever one asks for a glass of water, always retrieve it, no matter what time of day, or the middle of the night.
b. It's a picture of pure service and it always stands, no matter what the time, no matter how you feel. To love is to serve.
c. How many times do we tell those we love to, "Hold on," or "I'll get to it later," or "Get your own water." I've never forgotten this little love device. Not saying I always employ it the way I should, but it's always there in my head.
8. I think love does not fear being hurt
a. It gives with abandon.
b. C.S. Lewis says, "The Lord says nothing about guarding against earthly loves for fear we might get hurt; He says something that cracks like a whip about trampling them all under foot the moment they hold us back from following Him."
c. Interestingly, whereas many in my own generation dealt with parents who prized work and affluence above family, today that hurt generation borders on making family an idol.
Where do our affections reside? Do we align our family love in relation to our love and passion for God?
Or have we aligned our earthly relationships inordinately, valuing family over God. Hard questions, I agree, but supremely important as we begin rearing our own families and imbuing them with our values.
9. I think love demands vulnerability and for men, this can be a challenge
a. I turn, again, to a famous Lewis quote:
TO LOVE AT ALL IS TO BE VULNERABLE. LOVE ANYTHING AND YOUR HEART WILL BE WRUNG AND POSSIBLY BROKEN. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE OF KEEPING IT INTACT YOU MUST GIVE IT TO NO ONE, NOT EVEN AN ANIMAL. WRAP IT CAREFULLY ROUND WITH HOBBIES AND LITTLE LUXURIES; AVOID ALL ENTANGLEMENTS. LOCK IT UP SAFE IN THE CASKET OR COFFIN OF YOUR SELFISHNESS. BUT IN THAT CASKET, SAFE, DARK, MOTIONLESS, AIRLESS, IT WILL CHANGE. IT WILL NOT BE BROKEN; IT WILL BECOME UNBREAKABLE, IMPENETRABLE, IRREDEEMABLE.
b. One of Lewis’s most quoted passages, and for obvious reasons. Lewis here, however, is working out a thoughtful reaction to a passage in St. Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine, who had just lost a dear friend writes: Though left alone, he loses none dear to him; for all are dear in the one who cannot be lost.” (Book IV; xiv) Basically, to use Lewis’s paraphrase, “Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
To this, Lewis says that to love at all is to hurt, to lose, to experience pain. The alternative is to turn to stone. Lewis, unlike Augustine, is not discouraging inordinate human love, but making a comment about the smallness of our love for God.
“It is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.” (The Four Loves, p.122)
b. A great passage indeed. Love, and love hard. If you don’t love, you’ll turn to stone. It’s not that we love humans too much, however, but that we love God not great enough. (See #8)
c. This, in my opinion, can be hard for the gentleman out there, including myself. Vulnerability does not come naturally and we must work at it. We cannot let our relationships turn to stone because we fail in vulnerability.
d. Apply "C" to our love for God as well. For that relationship to thrive, vulnerability with God is a must. (This is a post all to itself--note to self.)
10. I think "love makes me want to bruise my knees"
a. I think there's a passion in love that gets passed over in our so-called postmodern culture. Sincerity and genuine passion for another person in the truest sense seems rather silly today. We like to make fun of sentimentality, and this makes me sad.
I'm tired of irony, and the hip, of the cynical eye, and the too cool. Give me the lavish wonder of a love unrestrained and I'll give you my everything.
b. I think I want love to sweep into me with a fierce wind. I want it to ravish me so that I can, then, ravish my loved ones.
c. I think I want love to break me, to rebuild me, to be my very language.
d. I think I want to move into the one who is himself, love. Only then will I be able to rejoice in the hard cold truth. Only then will I be able to end my boasting and champion those who remain the objects of my love. Only then will I be able to understand kindness and patience, joy and mercy.
e. I think I want beauty to lead me on and into the everlasting.
What are we without beauty? It triggers desire, fuels joy and invigorates relationship. I don't want to scratch the surface of beauty. I want to peel back its layers and climb in and find you, my lover, my Love, my all.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.