YOU PROBABLY HAD ONE OF THESE COUPLES IN YOUR FRIEND GROUP. FOR US, it was Steven and Jennifer; or Jennifer and Steven. Whichever way you want to say it, there was no debate: these two lovebirds were inseparable since their sophomore year of high school. On the rare occasions you’d see one without the other—it was like soda without fizz—it just wasn’t right. Frankly, all that gazing into each other’s eyes was rather disgusting for those of us in their periphery. But to be honest, deep down, I think we all envied them. They’d found exactly what each of us is looking for.
As life rolled along and college transitioned from freshman fascination to senior seriousness, Steven and Jennifer busily planned for graduation festivities, the beginning of their careers, and of course, a summer wedding. Life was a fairy tale.
I wish I could tell you this one ended happily ever after. Unfortunately, in today’s world, I’m not sure there is such a thing. Five years after the Honolulu honeymoon, the couple suddenly split. For their close friends it was surprising, but not shocking. They’d seen the couple grow apart. But for those of us who had fallen out of touch since school ended, it was nearly unbelievable.
Allowing my curiosity to get the best of me, I began perusing Steven’s Facebook page (this is how my generation gathers information) to see if I could put the pieces together. I figured one of them fell into unfaithfulness, or maybe money played a factor. But when I read Steven’s wall post proclaiming the reason behind their split, I couldn’t help feeling an intense sadness.
“The rumors are true. Jen and I are getting a divorce. Quite simply, we fell out of love.”
Make the Choice
I’m sure you’ve heard the “we fell out of love” excuse before. In today’s culture it’s an all-too-common justification for divorce. Divorce rates in twenty-first-century North America differ slightly depending on which statistics you believe. However, most studies show that one out of every two marriages will end in a permanent breakup. Sadly, despite biblical guidelines about divorce, Christians—Adventists included—seem to get divorced almost as often as those who don’t have a relationship with God. Often infidelity is involved. Still, there are way too many who simply claim to have “fallen out of love.”
Once again, I’m going to give the same disclaimer I’ve mentioned throughout this three-part series: I’m not married. But I’m going to offer a nugget of advice to all soon-to-be newlyweds out there anyway: Love is not a feeling or emotion. Love is a choice.
When I began writing this series, my hope was to use human marriage as a mirror to describe a relationship with God. From the way we communicate to our outward acts of service, God—just as our human partners—desires the full commitment of our entire heart, soul, body, and mind. Love based entirely on emotion is one of the single gravest dangers threatening this commitment.
I believe my married friends when they candidly acknowledge that there are moments when they don’t “feel” love for their spouse just as there will be times when you don’t “feel” like loving God. It’s hard to love your husband when he doesn’t seem to listen to you; it’s hard to love God after your best friend is diagnosed with cancer, and your prayers seem unanswered. It’s hard to love your wife when she maxes out your credit card; it’s hard to love God when the stack of bills is greater than the sum of your bank account. In the midst of a mundane week—with date night and Sabbath nowhere in sight—it can be hard to love anyone much. In these moments true love resides in a choice . . . our choice.
Transcend emotion; choose to love.
And we’ll all live happily ever after.
Jimmy Phillips ([email protected]) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communication coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. This article was published October 28, 2010.