We’ve been on a Disney movie kick lately since we recently celebrated our 3rd anniversary at Disney World. We watched The Princess and the Frog the other night. It's one of my favorites (mostly because it takes place in Louisiana and has a lot of references to delicious Southern food).
In case you can't remember, they both become frogs and get stuck in the Bayou. As they seek to get back to normal, they start to fall in love. They decide to get married as frogs and that’s when they get their big moment. At the wedding, they become human again. He turns out to be a noble prince after all and she starts a successful restaurant which was her life-long dream.
There's a reason this sells. In our culture, if you have one of these big moments, typically accompanied by a stellar dopamine rush, then you’ve found true love and you will live happily ever after. Sounds good, but is it true? Let's go one step further, is it Biblical?
It’s not that Christians don’t fight for some of these moments. By God's grace we do get some movie-worthy days in life and they’re incredible. But I think it's time to call our culture's obsession with movie-like love what it is.
Ungodly love is only committing to one another for however long we can draw happiness out of our big moments.
One example would be Christian teenagers who often think they're dating "the one" because of the way they clicked during their first conversation after they happened to meet at that party. But when that wares off God apparently changes his mind and "tells them to break up."
Another example would be the counseling based couple. One person is strong, one is weak. The strong person starts saving the weak person out their misery and, not so mysteriously, a deep bond forms as the weaker one gains strength from all of the attention. Many times once the crisis is over so is the excitement and they part ways.
There are other examples but let's stop and ask a question. Is this bringing us joy? Or fear?
Is this why weddings are like $25,000 now? Does it have to be the “big day” so that it fuels all of the days following? Does it have to be perfect so that the couple can draw from its greatness as long as possible? That's a lot of pressure. Maybe that's why I've talked with more than one couple who almost broke up during the planning process.
Again, Christians love weddings and there are plenty of Bible verses on feasting and celebrating happy occasions. Big moments aren't the enemy. Christ is going to throw his bride a party when he returns.
But Biblically speaking, these big moments are typically just symbols of something deeper, more daily, and more detailed that is going on between God and people, or in the case of marriage, between one person and another.
So when we look to our big moments to prove that love is what's going on, but not something more routine, we're wrong.
At some point this becomes all to obvious. Unlike the movies, there are no credits that roll across the sky after our big moments. Life goes on after our dopamine levels dissipate. This leads so many people into not only fear but confusion.
I mean, most of our favorite stories don't have anything to say about the daily life of characters after their big moment. There's no scene in the Princess and the Frog of them bored on a Tuesday night after having a fight about laundry over the sound of crying kids. But our lives have plenty of scenes like this even after we started living happily ever after. What do we do?
Embracing Godly Love
The main thing you need to know about godly love is that it's growing love.
Godly love isn't afraid to admit that we're not perfect thus our love is not yet perfect. Godly love admits that we need to work on our love with the passing of each small moment. If big moments come, great. But our actions will stay the same regardless.
Let me explain by going back to the topic of weddings. Godly love would not call the wedding the big day but the “first day.” It’s the first day of a long journey to the real big day - our last day. In other words, godly love says the wedding day should be the least we ever love each other, but our last day should be the most. Because godly love admits our love is lacking and consistently seeks to grow little by little.
Feelings are involved, happiness is involved, attraction is involved but at some point a decision becomes the foundation for love - not anything else. Therefore with godly love there is much less fear and confusion. The decision to love informs the relationship. Are you willing to make such a decision?
A movie about godly love would probably be about a guy who sees his wife is rushing in the morning so he gets out of bed and starts the coffee even though it's his day off. It may have a scene where she remembered to tell him he's doing a good job being a dad because he appreciates the affirmation. There would be something in there about him thinking through his day on his drive home so he has something specific to say when she asks how it was, because she can't stand it when he just says, "fine."
It sounds exhausting? It’s not nearly as exhausting as the cycle of relationships ungodly love puts us through.
It sounds difficult? It’s not even half as difficult as the heartbreak of ungodly love.
It sounds like a boring movie? Truth is it’s anything but.
So how do we embrace godly love?
Treat Today Like the Last Day
After all, it could be. Meditating on this helps us think through questions like these:
- What arguments would be insignificant if it was the last day?
- What would you want them to know if it was your last day?
- What good would a grudge do you if it’s the last day?
- What gift would they love if it were the last day?
- What would you say if it were your last day?
What would you do if it were your last day? Maybe it's time to do that. What if today's not the last day? Then ask these questions again tomorrow.
When you get tired and want to throw in the towel because these small moments aren't enough for you, read again about the ultimate "big moment" - Christ's last day. The day he made the decision to love you totally absent of your ability to make him happy. Read again about how it wasn't his last day, as he has risen from the dead, sending his Holy Spirit to you never to leave you no matter what. Then get back in the game.
Your love will grow. Each passing day will become your best day until the big day finally comes. And who knows, maybe they’ll make your marriage into a movie. Though it may be frogless, it would definitely be worth watching.