He Comes Back to Love: A Thought from the Early Chapters of Jeremiah

For a long time, I’ve lived with the impression that when the prophets of the Old Testament spoke to the nation of Israel, they were simply speaking out of God’s displeasure, and it was all condemnation and judgment. 

I knew there were bits of hope in there. Jeremiah speaks of the “righteous Branch” of David (23:5-8), a small encouragement smashed between words of condemnation and disappointment in the people of God. But most of what I remember from my first reading of Jeremiah is the warnings and the disciplinary words.

And I get it. The book was mostly written, scholars say, after the Israelites’ exile to Babylon. There’s explanation and context given for their circumstances. 

But stuck in chapter 3, early on, is one of the reasons why I love God and I love Jesus.

After talking about how Israel has “played the whore” (v. 6) and “took her whoredom so lightly” that she began “committing adultery with stone and tree” (v. 9), Yahweh, through Jeremiah, offers an escape. He tells the prophet to face north and say:

“Return, faithless Israel, says the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the LORD; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice, says the LORD. Return, O faithless children, says 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.” (v. 12-14)

There’s something very — as evangelicals like to say, and that’s not a criticism — “Gospel-centered” in this passage. God is saying to His people, the ones who have abandoned Him, that they’re not beyond reconciliation and saving. He doesn’t ask them to do any spectacular acts of repentance or make up for their mistakes — simply acknowledge their guilt and return.

It’s so simply powerful to me that God offers this chance at reconciliation to the people of Israel. This is a people that worshipped false gods, disobeyed the real God’s commands and abandoned the One who had given them so much. As a result, they ended up in exile in Babylon. But God says they’re not too far gone, not too far away to be saved.

So many people will speak of the God of the Old Testament as a judgmental and angry God. And I get it. There are many words even here in the first few chapters of Jeremiah that get that message across loud and clear. And there’s confusion that even I have had recently about this seeming juxtaposition between the loving and grace-filled God of the New Testament, represented best by Jesus, and the condemning and disciplinarian God of the Old Testament. 

These verses show that those versions of God actually meet in the middle. 

What the authors of the books of the Testaments report to us is that God is a complex figure, but at the end of the day, He comes back to love. He centers on it. His inclination is to love. Even if His children have disappointed Him and He has to discipline them, He comes back to love, community and togetherness. That’s His default. 

So when we speak of God, we must speak of Him faithfully, as the prophets did, as Jesus did, as Paul and Peter did — a God driven by love and welcoming, not one driven by judgment and condemnation. Yes, He has standards and desires for us, mainly one: to love others as He has loved us. 

Let that be our default as well.

‘Modern Anxious Romance’ — In the Midst of Madness Preview, Pt. 3

NOTE: This is the third excerpt from my book In the Midst of Madness: A Christian’s Experience with Anxiety and Finding Relief. The book releases on Jan. 12, 2018.

Modern Anxious Romance

In his book Modern Romance, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari (who plays the hilarious Tom Haverford on Parks & Recreation) explores the quirks and difficulties of dating in the modern world. It’s a funny read. There’s profanity and some crude content, so if you’re not up for that, I’d avoid it. But I’ll share a pretty clean story from the introduction to his book.

Aziz was trying to decide if he should text this girl he had met that he calls Tanya. They had hung out one night and he wanted to get in touch with her again. Should he call her? Should he text her?

He waited a few days, then texted her. He began to picture what their relationship would be like. A few minutes after he sent the text, the status of the message went to “read.” Moment of truth. Nothing. Fifteen minutes, an hour, two, three hours go by, nothing. He begins to second-guess what he said.

After a few days, he realizes something:

“The madness I was descending into wouldn’t have even existed twenty or even ten years ago. There I was, manically checking my phone every few minutes, going through this tornado of panic and hurt and anger all because this person hadn’t written me a short, stupid message on a dumb little phone.

I was really upset, but had Tanya really done anything that rude or malicious? No, she just didn’t send a message in order to avoid an awkward situation. I’d surely done the same thing to someone else and not realized the similar grief I had possibly caused them.”

In the first chapter, Aziz shares about the difference between “soul mate marriage” (where love is the primary factor in marriage) and “companionate marriage” (where finding a life companion for safety and security is the motivator) and how marriage has changed from the latter to the former over the years for the majority of people, particularly in my generation. While reading, I noted the following thought:

“But searching for a soul mate takes a long time and requires enormous emotional investment. The problem is that this search for the perfect person can generate a lot of stress. Younger generations face immense pressure to find the ‘perfect person’ that simply didn’t exist in the past when ‘good enough’ was good enough.”

In modern times, romance has become one of the most stress-inducing, anxiety-filled, drive-you-crazy-because-she-hasn’t-texted-you-back-in-two-hours things that has ever existed. In fact, it’s the only thing that has ever fit that description. Romance, particularly in the smartphone and social media age, has so many more nuances and produces more insecurities than in previous generations.

When my parents were dating back in the 1980s, there was no Snapchat or Facebook. There was picking up the telephone and calling to try to set up a time to get dinner and see a movie. There was no analyzing the latest tweet your potential boo tweeted, or wondering why he had read your text but hadn’t replied when you thought things were going well. I’m sure there was still a ton of fear and insecurity and doubt, but it was different.

I personally believe that Christian culture has made things much more difficult for believers to process romance because there are so many “rules” and “guidelines” for how to do things. Whether it’s right or wrong, we as Christians have placed a great burden on trying to decide what our romantic lives are supposed to look like before we even dive into them. Yes, there is wisdom in thinking well and making good decisions, but often we make it so complicated.

We see a potential love interest’s faults as “red flags” when maybe they’re just human flaws. We want to wait for the “right time” when there really is no such thing as a “right time.” It induces so much anxiety, it’s ridiculous!

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about how men in the Church aren’t pursuing women in the Church the way they are expected to. There probably is a lot of fear and some anxiety, but I would wager a guess that it’s partially due to the unreal expectations that are placed on what a Christian dating relationship is “supposed” to look like.

And then, there’s the “unwritten” dating rules and questions to answer that humans have come up with that aren’t un-biblical. There’s so much!

My modern romance is no different, but I also fought the beast of anxiety throughout.

I Wanna Know What It’s Like on the Inside of Love

Can anybody tell me who Nada Surf is?

I mean, if it weren’t for Relient K’s cover of their song “Inside of Love,” I never would have heard of them. But as I listened to that song on the way to work today, one lyric in particular caught my ear.

Watching terrible TV, it kills all thought
Getting spacier than an astronaut
Making out with people I hardly know or like
I can’t believe what I do late at night

I wanna know what it’s like
On the inside of love
I’m standing at the gates
I see the beauty above

We’ve all been in places where we’re searching for something that fulfilled us, that showed us what we really needed. Perhaps one of man’s greatest needs is love.

In “Inside of Love,” the singer is searching for love. He’s been on the outside his whole life, he says, and he wants to be on the inside, he wants to see what it’s really like.

Well, my friend, there’s an answer for that.

It struck me this morning as I read Matthew 2. It’s the story of Jesus’ birth. Joseph, His earthly father, is visited in a dream. The angel quotes a prophecy that says Jesus is to be called “Immanuel,” or “God with us.”

It’s a popular idea of Christmas, but do we really sit down and think about what that means? God with us! There’s a couple things it means.

First: God is now with us. We were separated from God, distant, because of our sin. But when Jesus comes, it means we can have a relationship with God unhindered by sin’s eternal sting. We’ll still struggle in that relationship, but our eternity is secured if we confess and believe.

Second: God literally came down to earth to be with us. Jesus is God, and He came to earth to live perfectly, die and live again so that relationship we talked about in the last point could actually happen. How insane is that? I mean, seriously. Take stock of that for a minute. Do we get that? Do we get the depths of grace that exist in that reality?

That’s what it’s like to be on the inside of love, Nada Surf. It’s joy, relief, peace.

I’ve Looked Down That Road Too

So I work as a reporter at The Sanford Herald in Sanford, N.C., and my world was shaken yesterday.

We were told there was a police-involved shooting in downtown Sanford, a few hundred yards from our office. We were waiting for more information from police. Then the news came in. I’ll copy our report below:

A 28-year-old male from Sanford died Thursday afternoon of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to Sanford police.

The incident occurred around 1 p.m. in front of an abandoned business at the corner of Charlotte Avenue and First Street. Police cars blocked off a section of Charlotte Avenue while the man stood outside of the abandoned business. He was armed with a 9mm handgun and shot himself after communicating with police detectives and other civilians for about 90 minutes.

During the 90 minutes, nearby businesses closed down and people eating at La Dolce Vita Pizzeria, just yards away from the incident, were forced to stay inside the restaurant.

After the incident, EMS administered immediate medical assistance and he was transported to the emergency room at Central Carolina Hospital. He was pronounced dead by the medical examiner at the hospital.
 
The name of the man has not been released yet. Stay with The Herald for more.

I was shaken. Why? I’ve looked down that road before, that road of taking your own life, and it’s a dark one.

I didn’t get too far down that road, but I’ve heard stories of others that didn’t, like this young man. As I saw tributes on my Facebook feed to this guy yesterday, I saw that he was well-loved by people of all races, ages and political perspectives. People came together to remember him. I won’t print his name here out of respect for the fact I never met him, never knew him and had never even heard of him before yesterday.

But I want to believe that I’ve felt part of the pain that he felt. Obviously, something happened in his life or his mind that drove him to this drastic decision, and he felt he couldn’t go on.

I understand the impulse. I’ve struggled with enough in my life to make me think about that path — depression, anxiety, bullying, religious doubt, fear of man, despair over mistakes.

In this time, I struggle to think of what I could say to comfort those who might be hurting or mourning. I’ve never been intimately acquainted with someone who has taken their own life. I’ve known people — a former high school classmate, a distant relative, this man yesterday — that have done so. I’ve known people that have thought about it. Words just aren’t enough in this situation.

What I will recommend, and what I hope to do more of, is this: don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you OK?”

I think we’re nervous to get too invested in others’ lives for several reasons. First, we can be selfish people, and getting too much in others’ lives takes away time and attention to ourselves. Second, we don’t want to pry or make things awkward. And third, sometimes we just don’t know how to.

I’ll suggest it this way: Think about how often you start a conversation with someone and you ask, “How are you?” or in the case of Joey Tribbiani, “How you doin’?” It’s a common conversation starter. How often do you or the person you’re talking to say “fine” or “good”?

I recommend that we start taking the time to dig deeper into that. Obviously not with people you’ve just met or in professional settings, but with friends or relatives, be willing to ask, “How are you good?” or “How are you fine?” If they seem a little unsure, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you OK? Is there anything I can help you with? Do you need to talk about something?”

The worst that can happen to you is that they say “no” and it’s a little awkward for a while. The best that can happen is that 1) you have a meaningful, productive conversation with another human being (talks that seem few and far between these days) and 2) you might bring a little hope and love into another person’s life.

Yeah, love. There’s not enough of that right now. And I’m not blaming the person’s family or friends or coworkers or whoever for not loving him enough. That’s not the point. I’m asking you who know people to show that love to others. Point them down the path of love.

I want to say one last thing, to send a message to my brother who passed on:

Yes, I know we never met, and you’ve probably never even heard my name. But you’re my brother because we’ve had similar struggles, I imagine. I love you, man. I hope and pray you’re in the arms of a Savior who loves you. I hope your life will spur others on to love. I hope your life will spur me on to love.

— Zach

What I’ve Learned About Faithfulness in Romantic Relationships from Popular Music

How many popular songs have you heard that talk about avoiding faithfulness in a relationship?

The ones that come to my mind primarily are “Leavin” by Jesse McCartney and “The Call” by the Backstreet Boys. In “Leavin,” Jesse encourages a girl tell her man that she’s “leavin, never to come back again.” The plea is primarily based on his ability to please her better sexually. In “The Call,” the man is making a call to his woman at home about some vague place he’s going. What he doesn’t say is that he’s going to be with an unnamed woman.

Faithfulness in romantic relationships is a foreign concept to half of America these days. True faithfulness is the reason that marriages end in death of one of the spouses. I’ve seen true faithfulness in my parents’ marriage, in the marriages of many others.

I must admit, I often wonder how in the world this happens. How do we get to the place where we can repel those temptations from people other than our spouses? What must we learn?

Surprise of surprises, I’ve learned some pointers from popular music. Here’s three lessons I’ve picked up from three different songs. Two are popular tracks from this past year, and the other is a little harder to come by but definitely worth a listen.

1.Don’t deny the temptations. Recognizing them is the first step to beating them.

Song: “Honey, I’m Good.” by Andy Grammer 

This song, Grammer’s most popular record, revolves around him being in a bar and seeing women around him who are tempting him. He acknowledges that they are good-looking, but he’s got someone much better at home.

“It’s been a long night here, and a long night there, and these long long legs are d*** near everywhere. Hold up now, you look good, I will not lie, but if you ask where I’m staying tonight, I gotta be like oh baby, no baby, you got me all wrong baby, my baby’s already got all of my love.”

Grammer acknowledges the attractiveness of the woman he’s speaking to. He’s not trying to deny it or ignore it. He even says that “better men than me have failed, drinking from that unholy grail,” that people have slipped in this area. He’s also aware of his own weakness, that if he stays he “might not leave alone.”

He uses these reasons to say that he’s gotta get the heck out of there. Grammer told the Miami Herald this about the inspiration behind the song:

Well, you know I’m married now. So when I go out on tour, well, there are always hot girls around. The song’s about staying honest and being like, “Yes, you are smoking hot, but I’m good. I got a lady at home who is incredible. It’s worth staying truthful.”

As with any temptation to sin, recognizing that they exist is the first step. If you recognize that there is a chance you will slip up, you’re more likely to set the safeguards in place to avoid falling to the temptation.

2. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should.

Song: “Wanna” by Christon Gray feat. JGivens

The first verse of this track focuses on Gray spending time in a club or restaurant or bar and seeing a beautiful woman. He shares the thought process he goes through in this time.

“I feel like it don’t matter anymore, getting used to the way the world turns. But I must say it’s spinnin’ really fast when I look at her. I just. If I was just a few years younger, girl I could be your boy wonder, you could be my prima donna, when I’m away from my wife and my daughter.”

He talks about how the wedding ring on his finger feels so heavy, and it would be so easy to slip it off. The chorus repeats, “Shouldn’t but I wanna, shouldn’t but I wanna.”

Just because we want to do something doesn’t meant we should do it. The word “should” can be a dangerous word because it could lead us to legalism or doing things we don’t necessarily need to do. But within marriage, you should not cheat. You say in your vows, “‘Till death do us part.” That doesn’t mean, “‘Till there’s someone else who looks better. ‘Till there’s a time where she doesn’t fulfill me. ‘Till there’s a moment when he doesn’t love me as he should.” There’s nothing wrong with saying “should” here.

There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.

3. Your spouse is your cheerleader, and she should be cherished as such.

Song: “Cheerleader” by Omi

 

“All these other girls are tempting but I’m empty when you’re gone. And they say, ‘Do you need me? Do you think I’m pretty? Do I make you feel like cheating?’ And I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ Cause, oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader, she’s always right there when I need her.”

If you’ve chosen to settle down with someone for the rest of your life, hopefully you’ve seen something in that person that is worth giving the rest of your life to. What I’ve learned that I need to remember is that my future spouse is the best I’ll ever have, and because of that no one else is worth it. She’s my cheerleader. She’s the one who will support me until I die.

And this is the best reason to not cheat. If you’ve married well, you’ve married someone who will give everything they’ve got to the marriage. Will they be perfect at it? No. But they’re worth not cheating.

The song continues: “She gives me love and affection. Baby, did I mention you’re the only girl for me? No, I don’t need a next one. Mama loves you too, she thinks I made the right selection. Now all that’s left to do is just for me to pop the question.”

The best part about marriage is that you choose the person to spend the rest of your life with. Things will not be perfect, will never be perfect. But the point of marriage isn’t to have a perfect situation. It’s to have a partner to wander through the rest of your life with, together, seeking after the best.


If you’re a Christian, you’re challenged to love and cherish your spouse. They’re your No. 1 priority. You’re called to sacrifice for and serve them. This isn’t an optional thing. This is the real deal. It’s a real deal I’m stepping into pretty soon, and I’m so excited. I can’t think of cheating on my soon-to-be-wife.

But I can’t assume that I’m immune. As Andy Grammer said, “Better men than me have failed.” I’ve got to keep these things in mind so that I can stay true to my lady love.

What Christmastime Has Taught Me About Love and Marriage

One word that is associated very much with Christmas is “give.”

It’s all over the place. We give gifts to one another. We give time towards hanging out with family. God gives Jesus to us for the salvation of our sins.

It’s all indicative of sacrifice, showing giving up something for the better of someone else. We give our money to stores so we can give gifts to others. God gives up His Son so we can find eternal life one day.

One thing that being engaged during this season has taught me is that, within marriage, I need to act like it’s Christmas all year round.

Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” That simple idea of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church, giving of Himself for her, is what marriage is supposed to look like in a nutshell. There’s a continual attitude of sacrifice and love, echoing the love that God showed for us in Christ on the cross.

And Christmas is a great time to reflect on those things. We can think about the gifts we give to our spouse/finacé(e)/significant other as a reflection of the gift God gives to us. We can think about going with them to the in-laws/future in-laws not as a chore, but as a joyous occasion to celebrate the season and to celebrate the bond of family.

By the way, I love my future in-laws. It’s not a chore for me at all. Just wanted to clear that up.

Christmas is a season of giving. So let’s see how we can echo the giving spirit of Christmas within our own romantic relationships not just in December, but year-round.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars. Just Making Sure We Were All Aware.

One of my favorite ministries is Fireproof Ministries. It’s a multi-faceted ministry with several branches, including XXX Church. One of their primary goals is to reach out to those that work in porn and simply love them by showing them the love of Christ.

I recently received, as a perk for donating to a recent fundraiser, a copy of the Bible in the picture above. It’s the Gideons-like copies of the book of Luke they hand out at porn conventions and other events. It says on the front, coupled with a drawing of a man with a “porn ‘stache,” “Jesus Loves Porn Stars.”

I wanted to get a physical copy of this Book of Luke because I wanted to see what exactly they were handing out. I love the work they do and would love to be a part of it some day, Lord-willing.

As part of the colorful intro, Craig Gross, the founder of XXX Church, wrote this:

You see, the Bible says we’ve all blown it. Whether we’re making porn, working in a coffee shop, or running a church, we are all sinners who have “stuff” we need to clean up. It doesn’t matter how much stuff we have; it all makes us imperfect.

The good news is that Jesus knows this and loves us anyway. It doesn’t matter if you got high yesterday or masturbated five minutes ago. He still loves you. In fact, he desperately wants to have a relationship with you. Your “stuff” doesn’t change this fact.

Whether it’s liberals, murderers or porn stars, we in the Church have a complex of avoiding people we disagree with or people whose lifestyles we don’t like. I’m entirely guilty of doing this.I don’t like hanging out with super crazy, Westboro Baptist-echoing, super-Republican fundamentalist Christians.

But when I read things like that, I’m convicted. If my call is to love like Jesus loved, no matter who I’m around, then I’m failing miserably. The Church, for the most part is failing miserably.

What I love about XXX Church is that they’re not going to try to get people out of the industry. That’s not their main goal. I’ve read and heard interviews with Craig Gross and other XXX Church staff. They would love for that to happen, they would love for these guys and girls to get out, but their main hope is that they feel and know the love of Christ.

In their work I see what the Church could and probably should be. Instead of first trying to change behavior, perhaps we should simply try to look at ourselves first and ask ourselves: are we really loving the porn stars? Are we really loving the Democrat in our workplace who vehemently disagrees with our stance on abortion? Are we really loving that guy we saw on the news who murdered his wife?

And I’m not necessarily saying we have to go all out and love by taking action, although that is the ultimate form of love. The question is this: at the base level, is our heart at a posture of love towards that person? Even if we never meet them, do we love them? We can love people without ever meeting them.

I can love the person on Facebook I haven’t seen in years who negatively comments on my blog post. I can love the politician who says everything I don’t like. I can love the woman who drowns her baby in a bathtub.

Why? Jesus did. And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can we, the Church, the people Jesus has called His own.

What Is It That Is Desired Most in a Man?

OK, so a little personal embarrassing confession time here.

When I was younger, I liked the music of Clay Aiken. I actually got made fun of at school for it. But I liked it. One of his standout songs was “Measure of a Man.” The chorus is catchy, and it gets stuck in my head every now and then even though I can’t remember the last time I listened to it.

It goes like this:

Would he walk on water?
Would he run through fire?
Would he stand before you, when it’s down to the wire?
Would he give his life up to be all he can?
Is that, is that, is that how you measure a man?

Say what you will about Clay Aiken and his musical prowess or lack thereof, but I think there’s something quite insightful about those lyrics.

What defines how you measure a man? According to Proverbs, it’s something you might not expect.

Proverbs 19:22 and 20:6 say,

What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar…Many a man proclaims his steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?

Steadfast love is to be most desired in someone. Not an overwhelming amount of knowledge, not skill at a trade, not even spiritual acumen, but the trait most desired is steadfast love.

What is steadfast love? It’s love that doesn’t sway or change due to feelings, circumstances, obstacles, whatever. It’s a love that stays the same. Really, it’s the way God loves.

So what’s most important for someone, what’s most desired, is steadfast love, a love that doesn’t change, a love that stays the same through the ages. A love that looks like this:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

That is what is most desired in a man.

As Far As It Depends on You, Just Get Along With People on Social Media

We live in a culture of vehement disagreement. Just take a look at your News Feed.

Every day, I see (and am sometimes involved in) conversations on someone’s Facebook post that revolves around a vehement disagreement on some political or societal issue. Sometimes that disagreement can be over something trivial and the disagreement can be joking and playful. But sometimes it can be bad and vitriolic.

These kinds of interactions have led some people I know to stay out of conversations on Facebook altogether, and I applaud them. Perhaps it would be better for me to take that route. I’ve been in quite a few of those bad conversations and said some things that were out-of-line or had a sinful attitude and approach.

Romans 12 has some words for me. Verses 16-18:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Live in harmony. Live peaceably. If we look at social media, there’s not a lot of harmony and peace.

There is a place in society for disagreement and people having a conversation in which opposing viewpoints are presented. People are different, so we’ll have different ideas and opinions on how certain things “should” or “ought to be” run or thought about. That’s just part of being human.

But we shoot ourselves in the foot as a society and as the body of Christ when we resort to vehement vitriolic disagreement.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve tried to stay away from being mean in my comments but my attitude has gotten sour over some things said on Facebook. I have done little to create an environment of harmony and peace on social media.

But these verses challenge me, and hopefully challenge you who might read this, to think through how we behave on social media. Are we creating an environment of peace and harmony on social media?

To be fair, there’s only so much we can do, right? We can’t control how other people behave on their Facebooks and Twitters. Romans 12:18 takes care of that, saying that “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It’s saying that we must do whatever we can to pursue peace in our relationships with everyone. There are going to be times where the other party isn’t as willing to pursue peace, and in those times we can be content knowing that we’re trying to do the right thing. But remember that doesn’t give us license to be spiteful and unfairly critical of the other party.

My fiancée once told me something very wise. We were talking about fighting sin and she said, “You need to do what you need to do to not do what you don’t need to do.” I was like, “Brilliant!” We need to take whatever steps necessary to avoid sinful behavior. Particularly online.

I need to think five times about what I’m about to post. I need to think about something that my dad tells me all the time – “Is this thought helpful?” I need to think about how what I’m about to say can create an environment of peace, even in the midst of disagreement.

It is possible to disagree well.

 

Don’t Give Up: Even When Relationships Are Stressing You Out

“Actually, there is a word for that. It’s love. I’m in love with her, okay? If you’re looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want no matter how much it destroys you, it’s love.”

I’ve mentioned before how one of my favorite shows is How I Met Your Mother. Just in case you’ve missed the posts where I’ve mentioned it before, it’s a show about Ted Mosby, a young guy living in NYC trying to find the woman of his dreams, the mother of his kids. It’s narrated by an older Ted Mosby to his two kids. It’s him saying to his kids, “Hey, here’s how I met your mother.” Classic.

Ted Mosby is a romantic. Easily. Throughout the whole series you see him pining for different women. Sometimes it’s a mess.

But one instance that strikes me so deeply is early on in season one. He’s dating a girl named Natalie, someone with whom he has a messy history, for the second time. The first time he broke up with her, he dumped her on her birthday via a message on her answering machine with a bunch of people in her apartment waiting to surprise her hearing every word. After they restart dating, Ted suddenly says, “I have to break up with her…She’s terrific but I have to break up with her…I should be in love with her, but I’m not feeling that thing. It’s ineffable.”

They had only dated – this second time around – for three weeks. Ted’s issue in this episode was that he was basing all his decisions on feelings and giving up really easily. It reminded me how easily people give up on relationships.

True, Ted is kinda clueless half the time. But just look at the statistics on divorce. Some studies say it’s 50 percent of marriages, some say it’s less. Either way, people give up on relationships all the time.

Sometimes giving up on relationships is what needs to be done. Sometimes it’s just not going anywhere. But there are two instances when giving up isn’t an option.

When you’re married, you don’t give up.

There are specific exceptions that are really hard and messy to deal with here, but 99 percent of the time, you say, “Till death do us part,” and you stick with that.

The American Psychological Association says that 40-50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. That’s crazy. That’s a lot of people giving up.

I can’t speak specifically to the difficulties that come within marriage because I’m still a few months away from experiencing it myself. But all that I’ve heard is that marriage is hard, and that it can be somewhat easy to want to ditch it.

But all I’ve heard about quitting marriage is that it’s not worth it.

As I’ve thought about the possibility of being married, I can think of several reasons why one would want to quit: arguments that never seem to end, the financial difficulty of managing money for two people, and many more. But when you say, “I do,” you’re committing for life.

One thing I’m learning about love is that it’s more about commitment. When you say, “I love you,” it’s more than a feeling. It’s saying, “Hey, I’m committing to you. I’m promising to stick with you, no matter how I feel. Even if I don’t feel the love.” Love means commitment more than anything else. Yes, there are feelings in there too, but it’s more about a promise. Love is a promise. What I’ve heard is that going through the tough times will only make your relationship stronger.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give up just because you’re scared.

Fear of commitment/relationships is one of the most powerful fears out there. I’ve experienced it in my own life, and had to overcome it to start pursuing my now-fiancée.

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it can also be a powerful de-motivator. It can suck the life and desire and drive out of you.

I know how terrifying commitment can be. You’re offering to give yourself up for someone else.

But I can tell you from personal experience that it’s worth it. The months that I have spent dating and now engaged to my fiancée have been hard sometimes, but they’ve also been incredibly joyful and rewarding. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.

So if you’ve got the opportunity to pursue a romance, but you’re sacred, please, don’t give up. Push on.

Don’t give up.