Refocused Romance, Pt. 3: It’s About Commitment, Not Feeling.

Perhaps one of my favorite movie romances is between Will Hunting and Skylar in the 1999 film Good Will Hunting. I love the movie, but the romance is quite interesting.

Will hails from the dirty streets of Boston, while Skylar is an English lass who has come to America to get an education at Harvard. They couldn’t be more opposite. Will is a janitor at MIT who has a penchant for getting in fights and hangs out with a group of guys you’d avoid on the street. Skylar is intelligent, beautiful, gives piano lessons and is planning on going to medical school at Stanford.

In one of the movie’s many pivotal scenes, Skylar and Will have an intense argument which ends in them breaking up. Skylar asks Will to move to California with her, and Will says no. Skylar asks him why, asks him what he’s scared of.

“You live in this safe little world where no one challenges you and you’re scared s***less to do anything else because that means you’ll have to change,” Skylar says.

Will emotionally responds and ends the relationship. He’s clearly being led by his feelings. He’s afraid to commit, afraid to devote himself to something. He lives his life on emotion, he makes decision based on emotion. Earlier in the movie, he picks a fight out of nowhere with a guy who bullied him as a kid just because he felt like it.

So often, high schoolers approach relationships that way. Their relationships are based on how they feel. We lament the world of teenage dating because it’s so temporary and so fleeting. Well, look around at adult dating and marriage. How many marriages end in divorce? How many times is it because of “irreconcilable differences” where people are living off their feelings instead of the commitment they made?

It’s not necessarily the high schoolers’ fault that they think relationships work that way. That’s how things are displayed on television and movies and in songs. And often we don’t even take the time to explain it to them.

Here’s the crux of this: commitment, not feeling, is the center of any romantic relationship.

Some people might think that so far in this series I’ve been a little lax on things. Let me toughen up a bit.

Dating is not something to be messed around with. It’s not something you take lightly. It’s not something you flippantly enter without prayer, thought and counsel. It’s not something you do just because you want to. There’s got to be serious reason and foresight and purpose behind you dating someone. It’s a serious deal.

That’s why commitment is important. Feelings come and go. They are strong one day and weak the next. Feelings can be the start of something, it’s what can draw you into a relationship initially, but at the end of the day romantic relationships are all about commitment. There are going to be days you don’t want to pursue romance. There are going to be days you’re overwhelmed with other things that you don’t want to invest in a relationship. There are going to be days you simply don’t feel like it.

You don’t need to wait until you get to college or adulthood to be thinking this way. You can start right now. It’s simply an echo of how Jesus relates to us, a commitment.

Something to think about though: if you’re thinking about a relationship, you don’t need to be ready to make a lifelong commitment before dating someone. All you’re doing is committing to seeing if this is something you might eventually want to make a lifelong commitment.

And that’s why dating is a serious business. It’s a good thing, it’s a great thing. But we shouldn’t take this flippantly. And that’s one reason I’m writing this series. I want to help people take this more seriously, but not so seriously they never try. It’s worth it.


God Feels, But Commits. We Feel, And De-Commit.

I’ve got a confession to make, and perhaps it makes me un-American. And I’m OK with that.

I can’t stand Top Gun. I like Tom Cruise about 75 percent of the time, and I love America, but I can’t stand the movie. I don’t see what’s so fantastic about it. Along with Forrest GumpTop Gun is one of the “American movie classics” I don’t like and would never choose to watch.

One of the trademark scenes in Top Gun is when Tom Cruise’s character sings the song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” to Kelly McGillis’ character in a bar. The song was ranked No. 34 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone in December 2004. The second verse goes:

Now there’s no welcome look in your eyes when I reach for you
And now you’re starting to criticize the things I do
It makes me just feel like crying (baby)
‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dying

Maybe it’s my cynicism, maybe it’s my maturity, but I find the premise of this song to be rather childish. And maybe that response is too harsh. Let me explain.

Real love can never be about the feeling. It should never be about the feeling. When you’ve lost that “lovin’ feelin’,” there’s no need for the relationship to die. And we see the perfect example of that in the God of the Bible.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s displeasure with the people of Israel, but also His passion for sticking with them. In Jeremiah 3, God is speaking to the prophet about the unfaithfulness of His people and we see an interesting juxtaposition. Verse 10 says that Judah returned to God but not “with her whole heart, but in pretense.”

In verses 11-14, God says:

Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD, I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD. I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

God sees His people being faithless to Him. He says He is angry, but He will not hold His anger forever. There is a sense where He’s not letting His anger, the feeling, the state of mind, be the driving force behind His decision-making.

An article on (admittedly not the greatest source and I couldn’t find the survey they cited) listed the top eight most common reasons for divorce. Among the top reasons were lack of commitment (73 percent of those surveyed), infidelity (55 percent) and unrealistic expectations (45 percent). Each of those things, as well as the rest of the list, involve a great deal of submission to feelings.

How many times have you heard in TV shows or movies the sentence “I don’t love you anymore”? Have you said that to someone? Has someone said that to you?

We are a very emotional people. We have been and we always will be. We can’t escape the fact that we are guided by emotions and feelings, particularly females. But there are also dudes (like me) who let their emotions get the best of them and submit to them. The thing about our feelings is that they come and go, sometimes by the second. We can be totally on board with something like marriage, but then a few feelings later be questioning our commitment and then breaking it.

I’m afraid that often we are addicted to happiness, constantly seeking after things that will make us happy and forget about the cares of the world. This is prevalent in Christians. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone to church and hoped that I would get emotionally psyched about following God. But if I’m honest, those times are few and far between. There’s little to no consistency about it. In fact, I’m often the opposite of emotionally psyched. I’m either emotionally drained, emotionally bored or emotionally vacant. No feeling. But I can’t let that keep me from pursuing Christ. I can’t let that keep me from loving God or loving anyone else.

I think the biggest cause of church-raised college kids dropping out from following Christ is the loss of the emotional high they get from being in a church environment every week. They get busy and miss church, and they weren’t raised to think properly above everything else. So when they get to college and their emotions are dragged about by the temptations at hand, they go to what makes them feel happy, what makes them feel good. They get tired of the rules and religion associated with Christianity and they ditch it, looking for that emotional high. They didn’t learn – perhaps weren’t taught – that what’s truly important in life is thinking the right way. And when two things happen – their emotions captured by the college lifestyle and their thinking challenged by academia – they lose their faith. No shock, because there wasn’t much of a foundation to begin with.

Just some thoughts I’ve had kicking around. If you take anything from this post, take this:

Following Jesus is much more about how you think. How you feel plays a very small part.