One of the most heart-breaking moments in anybody’s life (even though few will admit) is the realization that Disney relationships are not real- that we can have our idea of love destroyed by the reality of relationships. We are currently at a point in history where relationships are craved for more than anything and at the same time loathed more than bitter gall. In both extremes, men and women are the way they are because of a truth that you don’t need a Bible verse to know. Either way I will quote a Bible verse to let you know. It’s this: Proverbs 19:22a “What a man desires is unfailing love.” Steel heart or puffy heart, we all have this innate deep desire to be cared for and loved unconditionally. To be loved without being betrayed. To be loved without feeling pain. To be longed for and craved for by someone else. What a man desires is unfailing love. And in this great desire to find the one true love, we have found briars and thorns, thistles and scorn, liars and porn. The result is heartbreak.
Because the briars, thorns and thistles of life prick us painfully and prove that life is not a bed of roses- and if it is, the thorns are still intact. Hearts have been broken because lovers have scorned them, liars have robbed them and porn has dried them of passion. Men and women are constantly trying to get love from all the wrong places. I believe in the following principle- things don’t go wrong; they start wrong. When the foundations of any pursuit are wrong, it doesn’t matter how honest and innocent the building is, it will fall down; you will be heartbroken. If you start wrong, you will go wrong. If the foundations are wrong, it doesn’t matter how awesome the building looks and how long it took to erect it, it will not stand. Examine your relationships with the opposite sex. Are they inconsistent? Are they temporal even when you want them to be permanent? Are they healthy? Are you even hopeful for some or you’re too bitter and discouraged because your heart has been broken every time; your building has crashed every time? You expended your time, energy and resources and you don’t want to risk love again because it hurts. Are your relationships working? If your answer is no in any of the scenarios, I dare say that your foundations could be wrong and your building will fall if it hasn’t already. And with that hopeless paragraph, I begin today’s blog.
We place weak foundations of feelings in our relationships
I can bet you my salary that the heartbreak patients I mentioned at the start often place feelings as the foundations of their relationships. I know it too cause I’ve heard it. A friend of mine was in a relationship that was obviously ruining her and this is what she said to me: “But we will have cute babies.” Stop laughing, it’s true. When I asked a friend of mine why he ended a relationship with a decent girl, he said to me: “I didn’t feel the relationship anymore.” Another one said: “I don’t feel like he loves me.” And then there was: “I don’t feel in love anymore.” Feelings! Feelings! Feelings! We’ve all caught feelings and it will be the death of us when it comes to committed relationships. By the way, if your idea of a relationship is “let’s-date-for-fun” you can stop reading now because you will waste your time. If your desire is to get that girl to walk down the aisle or get that guy to be your husband, you have to learn to place the right foundation- and feelings are not it.
What’s the right foundation?
The essence of true love (yes, true love- undisney, untelevised, realistic and satisfying) especially in a marriage is a commitment first and a feeling second. The right foundation of a committed relationship is your commitment first then your feelings- not the other way around. The world bases love as a feeling first and a commitment second. Because of this misplaced order, lots of relationships that begin on feelings end so quickly that the members hardly taste commitment. So they jump from relationship to relationship, divorce to divorce seeking “feelings” of love. If you ask them why they left the relationship, they say, “They didn’t love each other anymore.” Yet the truth is, there was no true love in the first place. Why? True love is a commitment first and a feeling second. What existed was a fuzzy emotional thrill that can even last more than two years in an ideal environment, Beloved. When after two years the mushy feelings cease, the person concludes that love has died. This is the relationship between feelings and commitment. Feelings lead to temporal commitment and commitment always leads to lasting feelings.
Feelings lead to temporal commitment
When you walk into an event and you see the person you like standing by themselves, what do you feel? Chances are whatever you feel leads you to act. You get them a drink. You pull their seat. You ask if they are okay. You talk to them and make them feel great. What are those actions? Those actions are commitments. You are expending your time, attention and energy to make the person feel loved. You are committing. You are actually loving this person because love is a verb and not a noun. Love is an action, a commitment. What happens when after you have done all these things, the person you like then excuses him/herself. You inquire why. They tell you they have a special date with their boyfriend! Or girlfriend (if they’re a dude!) Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What’s going on here! Before you gather yourself their boyfriend/girlfriend walks up, hugs them warmly and they walk out arm in arm deeply in love. What happens to those feelings of yours now? I’ll tell you what happens to them. They start to die. And when they start to die you stop committing. Feelings only produce temporal commitments. When they’re gone, commitment is gone.
So are feelings bad? No! They’re perfect! Feelings help us be human and live real lives. However important they are, they cannot be the foundation of a relationship because they come and go! You may say, “Wait a minute, Ernest. But that was different. I’m going to have a relationship with faithfulness and trust unlike the solemn picture of the boyfriend/girlfriend you painted back there.” True, you may and I hope you will. But don’t you realize, it doesn’t take something as devious as infidelity to change your feelings. Your feelings can be changed by your hormones! Or by the weather! Your feelings can be changed when Arsenal beats Manchester United! Your feelings are constantly shifting and if you place them as a foundation to marry or date someone, you will proverbially say this when the feelings are gone: “He’s not the one!” or “She’s not the one.” Beloved, let me get a bit brash- to expect your relationships to endure because you felt something is immature. Well what is mature? I’ll tell you what- commitment. There are some of you who think by now that I am saying that relationships have to be like a job you don’t like- all work no feel! Deliver and go! Well, you’re wrong. I’m not saying that. And here’s why.
Commitment always leads to lasting feelings.
There is no such thing as a relationship without feelings. It either rocks or it bores; you feel. Even those who say, “I feel nothing” for him/her are not emotionally honest with themselves because indifference is simply hatred off the charts. Apathy is the mature stage of hatred. Just because you cannot record it does not mean you don’t have feelings. Just because the thermometer isn’t working doesn’t mean the room is not hot. You cannot jump into the swimming pool and not get wet. Feelings are here to stay!
I never did like doing dishes growing up. My siblings know this. When I got married though, I realized that I had made a commitment to Turi “for better or for worse.” When she once asked me to help her with the dishes, honestly, I was turned off. I did not feel good about it. But I did the dishes anyway. That night as I washed, she cooked and we had such an intimate conversation between us. The next time she asked me to do dishes, I did not feel like doing them again. My feelings were ugh! Yet still I did the dishes and we talked again. With time, I realized something- that I enjoyed talking to my wife as I did dishes. I still did not like doing dishes but soon everything changed. I began doing dishes because I enjoyed spending time with her. When she wasn’t in the kitchen anymore and asked me to do dishes, I felt like I had lost my incentive to clean the dishes. Who would I talk to now? Still, I committed to do the dishes even when she was not in the kitchen. Things changed again. I committed to doing the dishes until a time came when I found myself doing dishes even when she wasn’t at home! The creepy thing about it is that not only did I not need an incentive to do the dishes, I ended up enjoying doing them! I saw that pile of greasy plates smiling at me and I smiled back at them as I dipped them in the hot soapy water- honest! Ladies, if you are looking for the best guy in the world who can do dishes, I’m sorry, my wife beat you to it!
Why am I saying all these things? To teach you something important. And that thing is this- that commitment always leads to lasting feelings. I don’t see myself disliking doing dishes at home. When you commit to a cause and you kick out your nasty attitude, you develop feelings for it (naturally). The innate desire to feel good is fulfilled. That’s why Jesus commanded us to pray and do good to our enemies and even to those who hate us because he knew if we commit first we will love them eventually. But if we go with our feelings first, we will never show the world that we love them whether they are of other religions or living in ways contrary to the Scriptures. We don’t have to agree with their views of life but we can love them! And if you have given your life to Christ, please realize that this is easier for you than for others. Because the Word says in Romans 5:5 that God, through His Holy Spirit, has poured love into our hearts. We have a booster to start to commit- the Holy Spirit. But we should remember that The Holy Spirit won’t push us when we are unwilling. We must commit. When we commit to serve, our feelings will follow.
When love is a commitment first, the meaning of “For better or for worse” makes sense because even when you don’t “feel” you choose to commit knowing you will feel the love eventually. And believe me the times of “not feeling” in relationships always come! If you thought relationships always have that giddy feel when a teen likes another, you’re either in for a shocker or in for a crushing disappointment- either way you’re wrong. That is why marriage, of all relationships, is upheld by several cultures and religions. Marriage was a gift to humanity not to a particular religion. When you stand in front of people and say “I will” and “I do” you are making a commitment that you are obliged to live up to. That’s what makes you married far beyond exchanging goats or walking down a church aisle- the public commitment to the family of your new spouse that you will commit to them till death do you part. However, know this, when you marry, date or court someone you will (guaranteed, for-sure, I-kid-you-not) eventually fall out of feelings. It would be awfully foolish if after you lose the feelings you try to rekindle them with “another” guy or girl who you think is “the one”. That is how infidelity works- looking for feelings because yours ran out. It is immature and it is vain by all standards.
When you have no commitment and witnesses, it is easy to avoid all the problems that present themselves by walking away. That’s why even though science proves that co-habitation is one of the unhealthiest relationship institutions on earth, people still insist against the facts and the truth. They do not want to lose their “independence” yet they do not see that the only way to experience satisfying love is to surrender your independence and vulnerability despite your feelings- commit! That is also why many young Christian people who do not want to get married are simply held back because they have placed feelings as the foundation of their relationship fantasies. They may not know this overtly but they are seeking thrill that does not bind them because the thrill does not promise to last. To make it sound profound, they will say, “I choose love, not marriage.” That is equivalent to saying “I choose to swim, but not to get wet.” Nobody wants to get wet because they think getting wet must not be love. Love is swimming across that pool with your partner. Many who drown gave up because the feelings died. You must choose to fulfil your commitment, Beloved, because marriage’s purpose from our God was more to make you sanctified more than to make you “feel in love.” What do I mean? The process of committing even when the good feelings are absent is a sanctifying process. That’s how you get pruned in marriage! That’s is how you bear the fruit of patience, gentleness, kindness, etc. Those characteristics are demanded from you not because you feel but because you committed! It’s an incredibly beautiful sanctifying process of the soul and it is more important that you seeking Disney feelings of sunset with birds chirping in the trees.
The feelings that come after commitment last!
The person who chooses commitment first eventually ends up having strong feelings that don’t easily fade. The feelings that come when commitment is elevated are infinitely stronger than the initial fuzzy feel. The person who chooses feelings first loses both the feelings and many times never tastes commitment. For that reason, they never feel loved because nobody has committed to them and neither have they loved (they’ve never committed). They may even use sex to generate more feelings to keep the relationship going, yet it doesn’t work like that. Why? Allow me to give a blunt illustration. At the start of the holocaust, the Nazis killed the Jews because they hated the Jews but eventually the Nazis hated the Jews because they killed the Jews. Your feelings follow your actions. That is why some arranged marriages can work out brilliantly! (Not that I advocate for them!) However, it is good to note that ancient marriages were seldom based on romantic love. Children were raised up and taught their responsibilities for their future marriages as the core part of the relationships with the opposite sex. Those marriages worked. Why? They were taught that commitment came first!
Not all heartbreaks are because of feelings
“So are you saying, Ernest, that I should stick in even when the relationship is abusive?” If you are dating, get out. If you are married, seek help from the authorities and from a counsellor. What I’m saying is this though: Don’t give up potentially permanent relationships with mature godly people based on temporal immature feelings. The best of this kind of committed love is when it is balanced with has commitment from both parties. When one person stays in a relationship because of the feelings while the partner stays because of commitment, the latter is likely to suffer a damaging heartbreak if by an awful stroke of luck the relationship ended. Why? They loved their partner! The former may easily move on because their pursuit is higher feelings. They are driven by infatuation. What they do not know is that they may never settle unless they choose to love- unless they choose to commit. People in love don’t get married happily. People who get married happily choose to love, by choosing to commit first. Feelings always follow commitment. If you have thought of love as the feelings you relish in when you spend time with the most amazing person on earth, you may be surprised that you stopped loving them the moment you knew them really well with their frailties. For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Now that’s a commitment and those who stay true to the commitment always reap the beautiful feelings of love.
The greatest commitment; the greatest love!
You may be saying, “‘Ernest, that was a long blog and I’m sorry you wasted time to type it out because I’m not going to do that!” If I didn’t catch you in the first 13 paragraphs, I just might in this last one. Consider Jesus Christ. He had nothing to gain by coming to this earth. He left a heavenly realm for a broken world. What for? For us? Yes. Yet, in Genesis, it says that He looked at humanity and His heart broke. In Exodus it says that we frustrated Him with our pride and stubbornness. In Leviticus, it says we broke His laws. In Deuteronomy, it says we disregarded His statutes. And I could go on and on. And it doesn’t end with Revelation. It continues to you! You hurt Him. You fail him, over and over! You stick to bad decisions. You think you are better than others. You hurt others but don’t like being hurt. You think you know it all. You lie, you cheat, and you lust. And you don’t admit that the person I have described could be you; you’re proud. I know it because I am that person too. And yet the Bible says that Christ came for you and I when we were so unloving and so undeserving and he committed to us and died for us so that the bad description I just mentioned could be taken away from you when you die- so that you may enjoy the goodness of a Holy, Holy, Holy God. So that your Father in heaven could love you, Someone (Jesus) put his feelings aside, put commitment first and died on a cross on your behalf. God could have taken it out on you but he took it out on Jesus through whips and crucifixion. Jesus knew that the best relationships have a foundation of commitment first and that feelings come later- and that is true love! Proverbs 19:22a“What a man desires is unfailing love.” We have it! We have it from Christ! Unfailing love even after we fail him! He did it for us. And he committed to your eternity on that cross so that for 10,000 years bright shining as the sun we will enjoy feelings that this earth doesn’t even comprehend yet. And ten thousand is just the start of eternity. If you feel you cannot commit where you don’t feel mushy feelings, I implore you to humble yourself and consider the greatest commitment; consider the greatest love hanging on that cross. Commit to others but even more commit to Him because he did it for you. For where you treasure is, your heart will be. Where your investment is your heart will be. Where your priority is your heart will be. Where your commitment is your heart will be.