Gym your heart
The physical human heart is a muscle. I see this as a dim reflection of the unseen heart that loves- the heart in David that was after God’s own, the heart in Esther when she stood up for her people, the heart in Christ when he went up on the cross. That heart too is an unseen muscle that must be trained. For it to act, it must have a proper grasp on what true love is. Otherwise if it gets no training like the physical heart does through pumping blood, it will die and render the human being loveless. People who have been through painful heartbreaks need to train their hearts to love again. People who dismiss others easily on flimsy grounds need that kind of training too. The heart in David and Esther wasn’t a natural love. David did not naturally love the Lord. Esther did not naturally love her people to the point of risking her own life. And even our Lord, Jesus battled internally and sweated what was like beads of blood before he accepted the cross. Our own hearts need to change in order to experience true love, especially with the opposite sex. The human heart cannot love naturally. Forget the sentimentalism of Disney sparks that the world falsely and immaturely calls love. I’m talking of real passionate commitment towards others. That doesn’t come easy or naturally. It may seem to do so when the relationship is new and the marriage is but a few weeks old, however its full phase and truest nature is manifest when the mushy feelings disappear and offences occur. A human heart at that point needs real training to be patient, kind, non-vengeful, with pleasant thoughts, selfless and characteristic of all virtue. If that training does not take place, even men and women with good intentions will give up on good relationships. Before you gym your heart, you need to understand the anatomy of love.
Imagine love manifested in three concentric circles. C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters describes the outermost circle as emotional affection. The middle circle is intellectual and the innermost concentric circle is will. For the purposes of clarity, let me define the three. Emotional affection is prolonged imaginings and feel-good desires which often may have impossible outcomes. E.g. I will marry Kim Kardashian one day when she breaks up with Kanye. Intellect is the rationale capacity that enables us to comprehend how things are. E.g.If he loves me, he will get me a gift for my birthday. If he doesn’t he does not love me. Will is the intentional, uncoerced and selfless power to act on what is right regardless of opposing forces. E.g. She said many nasty things to me, but I will hold my tongue and be kind to her.
Emotional Affection Circle
We experience love rationally on the concentric circle of intellect. E.g. a child knows a parent loves them because the parent provides materially, expresses physical affection through hugs and touch. The intellectual circle interprets these actions as signs of love. There is a need. It is met. I am loved. Love at this circle is important but it’s not sufficient to define love either. Love restricted to the intellect can be very conditional. Men and women can place ifs and becauses to justify remaining in abusive relationships. He loves me because he bought me a gift. But have you factored in the fact that he hits you? She loves me because she spent the weekend with me? But have you factored in the fact that she has done so with everyone else. Not everything logical means love. Men and women can do logical things unlovingly. I have also often received emails and talked to several person who say, “If she loved me, she wouldn’t have said that.” “If he loved me, he would have gotten me the right gift.” If love is restricted to an intellectual, logical circle, there will be no room for imperfection when the gift is not bought.
This is not to condone irresponsible talk and ignorance of one’s love languages in the name of imperfection. Nay. However, love at this level needs to comprehend that not everything can be reasoned out. And if reason is the core of love, then people who hate us black can give us gifts maliciously and we can call it affection. Love at this circle can be marred by hypocrisy. It needs emotion but it also needs a special ingredient. Will.
The third and deepest expression and knowledge of love occurs on the will circle. This is love that chooses to act even when the emotions of the outer circle are depleted. This is love that acts even when the intellectual interpretation demands that the recompense deserved is punishment and not affection. The love in the will circle does not override feelings and intellect; it merely acts in spite of them. The love of the will chooses to act not “because of” but rather “despite of”. The training of true, undying, lasting love occurs in the arena of the will. The heart becomes a trained muscle that can love despite emotion and reason. This love is called by the those in the emotional circle, unromantic. This love is called by those in the intellectual circle, unreasonable. But this same love is what is called by God, true love. You see love governed by will automatically covers the emotions and the intellect.
Love in the will circle knows that if it loves even when the feelings are gone, the relationship will last and deeper everlasting feelings will develop that the emotional affection circle knows not of. Love in the will circle is also logical. It knows that if it chooses to call an “unmissed’ family member, be good to their frustrating spouse, be kind to those that irritate them and choose to speak in calmness in tense situations, the best outcome will emerge. Love of the will knows that Proverbs 15:1 is the best way to settle an argument. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov 15:1). You see to love like this is not mechanical. To love like this is not impossible.
To love like this is not burdensome. To love like this is practised. Where? Is there a school for it? Yes. The school is through a personal relationship with Christ. Christ is the epitome of love in the will circle. Christ endured insults, mockery, whips, and even murder only to forgive these very people. And those people include you and I. That kind of love washes away the sinfulness of humanity. And anyone that accepts Christ by confessing his Lordship with their mouth and believing in their heart that God raised him from the dead shall begin to be schooled on how to love like this. This love is what makes good marriages enviable. This love is what makes a true follower of Christ admirable. This love is what makes relationships with the opposite sex beautiful. But realize this beloved, that this love is not sourced from fellow humans. This love is sourced from Christ directly. You don’t need a boyfriend or girlfriend to experience it. You just need to look at the cross. You need to see that when you were unlovable, he took your pain, whips, chains, death and gave you his reward. If you source it from Christ, you have it and it is enough. This love, forgives all things, endures all things, believes all things and trains the muscles of our heart to never give up on each other. Don’t give up on love!