I was told this last month that we have a consumer minded church.
This Valentines season I am reminded that we have a consumer minded love.
Relationships today are often about looking for the best person possible, and when you get older, maybe just someone with only one divorce. Our culture is bound by this idea that love will bring with it, the whole package. A handsome or beautiful person will stumble into the picture, sharp in wit, and hilarious as well. They will have intentionally worked to get an education, buy a house, and start a career by age 22. When you meet them they will be awesome.
Even if you kind of suck.
I’ve seen people with low I.Q.’s expound upon the various list of qualities a future spouse will offer. I’ve seen couples dump each other because in the end they were incompatible, and yet three weeks prior they were the oft-legendary One.
If you get your worldview from Nicholas Sparks you will come to the conclusion that love is a candle that naturally melts away revealing our everlasting soulmate but if you pick the wrong candle, you just let it burn out and then you can move on. Society is starting to not only believe this but encourage it.
A good relationship is built on a foundation that is so different from that of our culture. Our culture says the base of a relationship is attraction, then compatibility, then friendship and after a long list of other steps comes the crowning stone. Commitment.
It puts the most weight and pressure upon an uncontrollable force that frankly is a terrible reason to make most decisions. All of us have been attracted to something unhealthy. All of us have had this deep desire or want for something be it “ALL THE PUMPKIN PIE!!!!” or stealing pants from Wal-Mart, the human condition finds itself prone to addiction and attraction in unhealthy and negative ways. So why when working through one of the most important if not most important decision in a lifetime, would one let these uncontrollable notions decide?
Beauty will fade. You may find yourself taking care of a disabled spouse at a young age. You may find yourself going bald, getting fat, failing school, or sinning and doing something wrong. You may find your lover the same. And when the perfection, attraction, and Nicholas Sparks moments aren’t living up to the day dreams and the childhood fantasy’s. You have a decision to stick it out and cultivate a much deeper love, or not.
This goes so much deeper then relationships. This is exactly why we have a consumer minded church today.
People walk into a church saying, “Is it beautiful enough? Do I like the music? The pastor is smart but is he funny too?”
Have you ever thought that out of all the Christians in the world, you are not the spiritual equivalent of Channing Tatum? You are not the supermodel celebrity that you think of yourself?
Maybe we are so consumer minded because we rarely get a no. We have more options then we know what to do with and yet still far less ability to pick between them then any group in history.
Deep down inside, this generation is wandering around saying, “I know I’ll see it someday. These feelings will match up with my desires and BAM! Perfect wife, perfect life!”
The truth is, the foundation of a relationship ultimately is that of commitment. It’s a covenantal choice to choose to love the person you pick. That’s not to say attraction, compatibility, and whatnot have no place. It’s just to say that if you are looking for God’s best, the truth is there will always be someone better. There will always be a prettier person or a more interesting church. There will never be an identifiable best and the second they are the best, you will find that idea of who that person or entity is humbled relatively quick.
Ultimately marriage is choosing a fallible human being with sin and covenanting to walk together through life no matter how hard and how painful. It’s a culmination of forgiveness, redemption, refining, and so much more. The same can be said of church. Your spouse will hurt you. Your church will hurt you. But this is ok.
Because then we can understand just a little bit more what it’s like to be Jesus or if we are the one causing problems, in a healthy relationship, what it’s like to have Christ love us.
As a painting has light notes and dark notes, people will always have shades of good and bad. People will never be perfect. That’s ultimately the beauty of the gospel, He loved us when we brought NOTHING to the table.
Yet love is as C.S. Lewis put it, much like gardening.
Elation and highs follow the first week of gardening when little green things sprout through the ground. You find yourself enamored by the feelings and emotions of creating life. “I did it! I did this! I have made a seedling!!!” And then the waiting occurs. The long almost obsessive watching and waiting. Hoping that the seedling will bear fruit. This creates high expectations and immense boredom.
The foolish gardener, says “It takes too long. I never really did like gardening. Maybe this wasn’t the plant I ordered. I should get a new plant.” While the wise gardener cultivates, invests, nourishes, and sticks with it until fruit is produced. And a deeper, stronger, and wholly unique love for gardening will develop. Things that a novice will never have noticed or appreciated will begin to bring thrills to the gardener.
Have you ever seen this before? A couple married 10, 15, 20 years, that seems almost disgusting with how much love is between them? You feel almost uncomfortable with the way they maintained this vast amount of love and passion? Much like gardening, it took work, nourishment, skill, and ultimately time. And at some point the relationship had a deeper love then all the Romeo’s and Juliet’s who burned extremely bright only to dim within weeks of knowing each other. This love chooses each other when things go wrong. This love is not an uncontrollable force but rather an immovable object.
How would our lives change if we started our relationships on a foundation of commitment? If our churches were not mere Sunday events but literally relationships deeply founded on choosing commitment. If the classic Corinthian banner to love all things, hope all things, be patient, and much more was embodied in our ideas of love, we would find ourselves happier and far more content then that of the wandering soul that is never fulfilled.
You don’t find your soulmate and then marry them. You commit through marriage to someone and they become your soulmate.
And in a way that is far more beautiful.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Gian Carlo Photography