by Athena Brockman
Love is a word, feeling and action; it can be romantic, endearing and eye-watering. We love people, our family and our children. We love our favorite possessions, cherished memories, and dreams for the future. But what IS Love? How can one word represent all of these categories at once? Well, really, it’s just the English language that combines all these types of love together in only four letters for us.
The romantic—and yet so much more—kind of love, the love worthy of history books and the love defined in the Bible, our greatest history book of all, is referred to in the Hebrew language as ahava.
In the book, Love-ology, author John Mark Comer says, ahava is the love that, “...has resolve and staying power. It is the word we all tend to avoid--commitment.” Comer references Song of Songs 8, where we can read,
Ahava is the love to end all loves and not for the faint of heart nor for the hearts so eager to faint.
In just the first few pages, Love-ology is convicting about what love is and how little of what we see in the media reinforces the ahava kind of love God wishes for us. The book emphasizes that love is neither simple nor is it made of only the fluffy stuff. By its title alone, we are challenged to view love as something to be studied rather than just felt.
It’s no surprise that Hollywood, television and music have shaped most of our views on love. But as we seek out the deeper, truer meaning of love, we discover it is both a noun and a verb.
Pastor Daren began the talks on the Love-ology series highlighting this combination and how both relate to marriage. In marriage, love is friendship, romance and service. It is received and given and it is so much more than the infatuation of beginnings. We heard the idea that 90% of the problems we perceive in our marriages result from problems with the way we see marriage.
I couldn’t agree more and can’t profess to be unaffected. Even though I watch shows today and roll my eyes at all the unrealistic elements of on-screen love stories, I think my views, and most likely yours, were shaped long before modern TV viewing.
As children, the media of the world teaches very early what love is. Kids learn of princes, princesses and damsels in distress with knights in shining armor. We are taught of the love of fairytales and conclude that our love should be and feel like one too.
When I was younger, a line from one of my favorite movies described love to be, “that can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, world series kind of stuff?” And, while the “world series kind of stuff” is a love we Bay Area Giants fans are blessed to understand, our childhood introduction to love places love on an un-scalable pedestal and makes us believe all love stories, including our own, have to be considered grand and worthy of an audience.
While I’d like to blame our modern times for this outlook, the beloved stories that are required reading for most American teenagers have reinforced the same message for hundreds of years. Generations have been taught that great loves are whimsical or tragic or star-crossed or unrequited, or some combination thereof. Teenagers can be easily convinced, by required reading and the media, that each love story has to have tumult, infatuation and drama in order to really feel like love.
Without studying love, without the Bible, we adults are still vulnerable to the influence of our childhood and teenage beliefs about love.
At a recent Sunday gathering, Pastor Daren challenged us to look past the messages of the world to the messages of the Bible about WHY God gave us ahava and created marriage.
In Genesis, God created marriage to give man a partnership, to work for His glory in companionship rather than solitude. The Love-ology series teaches that the story of Adam and Eve shows four key elements to WHY God created marriage:
1. Friendship so that we don’t navigate life alone.
2. Gardening so that we can be good stewards together and work for God’s kingdom.
3. Sexuality so that we can be truly vulnerable.
4. Family so that we can share in a sense of community.
After the WHY, came the fall, when Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and tasted the fruit, and this is when God provided a fifth reason for marriage, re-creation. This fifth element outlines that we are re-created in marriage as we help one another become who God intended us to be, individually and together.
These five elements help give a practical and empowering understanding of what love in marriage is and what we can work toward as we anticipate, prepare for, or navigate marriage.
As we hear this and take notes, some of us may grab onto one of the five elements, these “marriage buckets,” and drill down feeling like it might need a little work. I know I immediately attached to gardening, much to my husband’s dismay. I walked away from the Sunday gathering wanting to talk nonstop about whether we are gardening? Are we united in gardening? Is there something else we should be gardening? What does God want us to garden? What do you think we are gardening right now? Where should we be gardening 5 years from now? And as my questions continued, they went unanswered because he knew all too well that there is no perfect answer to a worried wife’s exclaiming questions.
At the end of my inquisition and after answering most of my own questions aloud, he finally asked one of his own, “how come I don’t think this is going to be the last time I’ll be hearing about gardening?” I laughed. It isn’t going to be the last time he’ll hear about it. But, feeling like our gardening “bucket” needs a little TLC doesn’t have to cause panic either. If I’m honest, this behavior is more aligned to the dramas of Hollywood and an easier default reaction than thoughtful prayer about my unique marriage, where God is calling this partnership, and how we can be re-created for Him.
If we want God to be the ‘well of our soul’ as Pastor Daren encouraged, then that starts with less panicking, more praying and a whole lot of studying.
Love-ology says if we want to know what love really looks like, “...don’t look at a dictionary. Look at a Jewish prophet crucified outside Jerusalem. Look at God in the flesh, giving his life away for the world.”
Let’s look to God and to the Bible together as we learn about love, His for us, ours for Him and the love we have for each other.
What is the Love-ology series showing you about love and marriage?
To hear the Love-ology series talks click here.
To join a Home Church study of Love-ology click here.
For Love-ology resources click here.