True Love

IMG_0271A running theme in many love stories is the idea of finding “the one.” In almost every television sitcom, romantic movie, or any work of fiction dealing with love, there is this idea that there is a “soul mate” or “the one” out there and destiny will bring the one to us.  This all sounds very romantic, but it’s not true.

In reality there isn’t a “the one,” at least not in a fated way. Before I begin to get comments about how I’m anti-romantic, let me defend myself by arguing that believing in “the many” is a far more romantic belief. Consider the following:

If it’s true that we’re fated to have just one person…

* How do we know when we’re finally with that person? If there was a “the one,” then wouldn’t our adultery rates be significantly lower?

* If you do know that you are in love with “the one,” then how is it really love? If fate dictated that you and this other person be together, then you’re not choosing to love the person, but instead are being forced to love the person. The love, the kind things you do, the feelings you have, none of that is your own work; it’s all biology/God that’s causing it. The sacrifice between you two is as commonplace as the tide or a bowel movement, that is, it’s nothing special.

* What if your “soul mate” made a mistake and married someone else? Well then, you can either commit adultery or settle for someone less than your “soul mate.”

* What if your “soul mate” dies before you meet, or dies shortly after getting married? How is he or she “the one” in such a case?

The truth is that there are many people that we would work with. There isn’t just one person that we’re destined to be with. Instead, we choose who we love. Yes, that is correct, we choose who we fall in love with, it’s no accident, it’s not some overwhelming force that directs us from bed to bed; we have complete control in who we fall in love with.

See, even in our idiomatic language we use the phrase, “fall in love.” But no one falls in love. Love isn’t something you fall into, it’s something that requires work. It isn’t a hole in the ground you accidentally fall into, but a house you build and maintain. You don’t always have control over who you’re attracted to, but you have complete control over letting those feelings develop into something more.

That means that when you do develop love with an individual, when you choose to become one with that individual, you’ve chosen to love that person. Every morning you get up, you’re choosing to love that person. You’re not fated to love the person, you choose it. That is far more romantic than the idea of having “the one.” Once married, we all have “the one,” but that we chose “the one” and choose “the one” is the truly romantic idea.

It is true romance because it fits our metanarrative as humans. God chose to love us, though He didn’t have to. In return, we choose to love Him, though we do not have to (and many choose not to love Him). In fact, the Bible is essentially a tale of romance between God and His creation, of His creation running away and God wooing it back. This is why the Church is called the Bride of Christ, because she acts as the ultimate lover to God. The Church has reciprocated Christ’s love, she has chosen to love Christ rather than be fated to do so.

Marriage acts as an icon of Christ and the Church. Just as Christ chooses to love the Church, so too does one mate choose to love the other mate. That means when a man’s wife is dying from some disease and he sits by her side, never leaving her, it is not because he is fated to do so, but because he chooses to do. When a man gets old, bald, and significantly overweight, yet his wife still loves him more and more everyday, that’s because she chooses to do so, not because the Universe has decided that it be so.

Love does grow in a marriage, but we must choose to allow it to grow. Love is like an oak tree. When it first starts, it is fragile and susceptible to being uprooted. But a good caretaker will do all he can to protect the tree and ensure its growth. As the years go by, the tree’s roots go deeper and it becomes stronger, to the point that even a mighty wind struggles to destroy the tree. Yet, this tree only grows if tended to early on, if trimmed so that branches don’t die and whither away. So too is it with love, something that is so easily dissipated early in a relationship, but if nourished through self-sacrifice and caring, something that nothing can destroy. But one must choose the self-sacrifice, one must choose the love, because no one is fated to love; and that’s true romance.