A Constructive Response
A constructive response to the emotion of “Love” as it is described in Is it “Love” or is it…Desire? (Part 1 of 3) invites us to take a closer look at how our thinking and behavior connected to lust or desire may have led some of us to experience superficial, immature, broken and possibly abusiveness when we sought to have our sexual/relational needs met.
We are also encouraged to take time to learn about, develop and experience other manifestations of love as defined in scripture (below and in Love and Desire: The Five words for Love – Part 3 of 3), to see how our lives and relationships could be different if we cultivated and maintained these and other healthier expressions of love.
In this post, I’d like to leave you with three more thoughts about how we can grow beyond experiencing Desire by itself, and move toward developing and enjoying Love and Desire in healthier ways in our life and in our relationships.
“What’s love got to do with it, what’s love, but a second-hand emotion” – Tina Turner (1984)
“We love because He first loved us” – 1 John 4:19 (NIV)
Contrary to the lyrics Tina Turner sang, our first point and goal is to develop what scripture calls “Agape Love,” which is the development and demonstration of behavior that is marked by unconditional love, esteem, favor, honor, respect, acceptance, admiration and devotion.
We are encouraged to learn about this unique form and expression of love, develop it with the help of God, apply it liberally to ourselves, then demonstrate or “give it away” freely to others.
By definition, Agape is healthy and it infers the demonstration of healthy behavior, especially when we are called to love others. Why is this so? Because our Higher Power, God, has our best (not second-hand) interests in mind when He sees us. Having our best interests in mind leads God to freely give this unique form of love to us, and He would desire for us cultivate it in our mind and experience the personal benefit that comes from developing this value. Finally, God would encourage us to share this unique form and expression of love meaningfully in our relationships with others.
Like Tina did sing about, the heart can get hurt and broken if Lust or Desire are the only characteristics and behavior experienced in one’s life and relationships. There has to be more to “love” than heartache, compulsion, selfishness, guilt, shame and abuse when we experience it. There has to be a better way, where hearts don’t get broken by the behaviors we read about in Part 1 of 3.
That is where Agape and other expressions of Love come to the forefront. Thankfully, there is a more complete expression of what Love is and scripture helps us to see this expression modeled by God giving Love to us, us learning about and growing this love in us, then us giving this maturer form of love to others. This sounds so simple; thank God we get a lifetime to figure some of this stuff out as we learn how to live!
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” – John 13:34-35 (NIV)
The second thought that I’d like to leave with you is an example of how I have learned about and experienced Agape Love. I experienced it in the context of rich and meaningful friendships where these “Agape Experiences” helped turn things around for me and perhaps if given the opportunity, these types of relationships may be helpful for you as well.
An Agape Experience was created by God providing good, safe, grace-filled, sincere, supportive, strong and real men into my life, who were vulnerable, healthy, loving and wise in many life areas, especially when it came to the expression of their own sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong, these men had experienced missteps in their own lives, but what they taught, modeled and lived in front of me helped me to become more cognizant about what healthy sexuality looks like. They also helped me to examine the whys and hows regarding my practice of immature and addictive expressions of “love,” and helped me to grow, develop and demonstrate healthier expressions of love on a day in, day out practical basis. They still do.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). This verse became real as a result of these personal experiences, which took place at work, in church, in meetings, at Starbucks, on the gym floor, in the Chapel, in the car wherever those men of character took me to impart a life lesson to me. But it did not stop there. They were good teachers of the word as well, and what follows is probably the most important thing I learned regarding how to move beyond Desire and into what real and meaningful love actually looks like. This was a game changer.
“He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” – Luke 10: 27-28 (NIV)
Third, what helped me and could possibly help you to move beyond unhealthy expressions of what love is and on toward healthier experiences is summed up in our final and what is probably the most important goal for us: We are called to learn how to love by implementing what Jesus called the two greatest Commandments: “Loving our God with all of our heart, and all of our soul and all of our strength and all of our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves” (NIV).
If we want to “live as if we are recovering from the illness” (the meaning of zao, verse 28), then Jesus encourages us to commit to God all of our heart, soul and mind, and the willingness to love our neighbor as we love ourself. What an order, but, since it is spoken by God, more than likely it can be done. I think we get stuck in thinking it has to be done perfectly. No, we don’t have to do things perfectly, but we are encouraged to be open and willing to God’s process of understanding what Love is, and how to cultivate it. So what does this process look like?
Giving our heart to God, for Him to occupy (v. 27) – The heart (“CARDIA”) is the seat of all our emotions, full of urgings and groans that at times we can’t even put into words, which is when the Holy Spirit translates our suffering experiences to our Father in Heaven (Romans 8: 26). The heart is also the place of influence in our lives. Who and what is in our heart is like saying who and what is “King” and on the “throne” controlling our lives. Jesus encourages us to yield our “seat” to Him, and to let the Holy Spirit influence this inner most, private yet precious place in our life, for our well-being.
Giving our soul, mind and strength to God, for Him to shape, transform and use – At one point in our existence, God “blew His breath” into us (Genesis 2:7), placing His “signature” on us, while also providing us with the opportunity to reflect His handiwork in thought, intellect, conscience and action. As the “Watchmaker” of our lives, He knows the time, the timing, and the time it takes for us to accomplish all things in His time. In His timing “love never fails.” Is it possible, with the way that we have demonstrated “love” in the past, that we just might need an adjustment to our “timepiece“?
Giving our all in “true love” to others – If we welcome God’s love to flow inside of our heart, bringing order and structure, insight and guidance to our intellect and mind, while also motivating and guiding our actions, then a relevant question is how do I demonstrate honor, respect, care, devotion, esteem, favor and acceptance to others, especially in the core domain of my sexuality and my sexual experience?
Here’s a final point to this. God does not want to take away your desire. No, you are created with this wonderful, beautiful, natural, biological and psychological craving and appetite. He does not want to take it away, no, but I suspect that He would like for the other words that define Love to influence this powerful part of who you are, leading you to purpose your desire. We’ll explore these words and talk about what that looks like in “Love and Desire: The Five words for Love (Part 3 of 3) as we endeavor to see God’s intentions regarding how we could positively experience and express “Love.”
Feel free to leave a comment or pass this post to others who you think would like to read it and by all means visit my other page at dr ken mcgill’s blog for more helpful “counseling” information.