Friday, September 3, 2021

What Is Love?

"I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." Song of Solomon 7:10 

"Mom, what is love?" Gina asked, setting down her school copy of Romeo and Juliet.

Jessica glanced her way, smiled, wiped her wet hands on a towel, then took a seat at the kitchen table across from her daughter. "Well, it isn't what people normally think it is."

Gina twisted her mouth in that adorable way of showing she knew the answer to her question was going to be longwinded. "How did you know when you loved Dad?"

Jessica licked her lips. That was many years ago, and well, quite frankly, she didn't know what love was when she supposedly "fell in love" with her husband. "There's a lot of pat answers given," she swatted away the words she'd heard over the years, "cliché's really."

Gina leaned forward with her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands, a smile playing around her lips and a twinkle in her eye. Yes, she did love hearing her parents' love story. 

"I used to think it was like Robin Hood discovering that Miriam was 'to die for'. And, there is definitely that aspect." Jessica remembered the hero-role Jack, her husband, played for her in their months of dating. "I used to think the chemistry had to be right, that tingling feeling all over." She nodded her head with a slight smile. "And that is a part of a good marriage."

Gina quirked an eyebrow. "But?"

"But..." Jessica pressed her lips together. Love was so much more than Romeo and Juliet, than the romances displayed in the Hallmark movies. How was she to explain it to her daughter? She tapped her fingers on the table and looked through their window to the beautiful trees in their front yard. "The greatest love story, the one which makes all other love stories look flat and unappealing, is the one of God and Israel, of Christ and the Church."

"Ah, Mom." Her daughter rolled her eyes, but Jessica thought on the passage in Exodus where God said, "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an inheritage: I am the LORD." What greater love story could there be than that? Except, perhaps, the story of Christ dying for His church.

"No, seriously, Honey. God loved Israel. Pursued her, protected her, provided for her, redeemed her, forgave her, remained faithful even when she wasn't. There is no greater love than the one God had and still has for Israel." Jessica set her foot on the edge of her chair and linked her hands in front of her knee. "A marriage, a relationship between a man and a woman, is a picture of God's love and relationship with us."

And there was that twitchy little smile which said Gina was interested but didn't want to be too interested.

Jessica let her lips quiver up in response to her daughter's. "Marriage, and thereby love, is by divine design a picture of the closeness, the oneness you can have with God, and of the oneness of the triune God." Jessica paused and thought for a moment. "And true love, the kind of love that makes a marriage, is about being one with the man who has chosen you to spend the rest of your life with. He pursues you before you are married, wanting you to accept his offer of marriage. His pursuit is pure, stemming from a desire to protect you, provide for you, love you as he loves himself, as Christ loves the church. His pursuit is not founded upon physical attraction, although that plays a part. His attraction to you should be because he sees you as God's unique and divine creation and desires to allow you to blossom as that creation for the glory of God."

"Is that how Dad saw you?" 

Jessica laughed. "Perhaps he wouldn't have quite put it that way, but yeah. I know he saw in me things he wanted to see grow."

"Was it love at first sight?" Gina grinned.

Jessica reached across the table and tweaked Gina's nose. "You silly romantic. No. Probably not, but perhaps there was the hope of love that twinkled in his eyes when he first spoke to me. He, as a man desiring God's will for his life, took the initiative. That is how God created men to be--initiators, leaders."

"So he pursued you."

"Well, he took the initiative to find out who I was, send me flowers, a few silly cards, and wash my car."

"Really? Wash your car?"

"Yes. He saw it needed to be done and did it. He took care of it for me."

"Doesn't sound very romantic." Gina wrinkled her nose.

The memory was sweet to Jessica. She had been so alone in the world when her Jack stepped into her life.

"Then, as my protector, he claimed me on a College and Career hike while other young men were... shall we say, wishing to stake a claim." Jessica chuckled at the memory of Jack taking her hand when one guy was rather overt in his advances. "We weren't even officially dating at that time, but Jack knew that some of those guys were not honorable."

"Mmm. Dad the hero." Gina settled back in her chair. "Tell me more, Mom." 

Jessica sighed and couldn't help but relish the memories. "Later, when I lost my job, he made sure I had at least one good meal each day."

"Like Boaz with Ruth."

Jessica tilted her head to the side. "Yes, I guess so."

"But when did you know he was the one you'd marry?"

"That's easy. When he told me he would consider it a great honor if he could call me his girlfriend." Jessica pulled the glass of sweet tea to her and twirled it on the table. "In those words, he showed me he valued me. I wasn't just a pretty thing to hang on his arm, or a woman to rule over. I would be someone he would cherish."

"Oh wow." Gina got a dreamy far away look on her face. "I wonder if a guy will ever be like that for me."

"Oh honey, no man is worth even going on a date with if he first doesn't see you as the greatest treasure he could ever be given. That man needs to be protective of you, even from himself. He needs to see that 'softness' is the very core of who you are. He needs to understand that forming deep friendships, deep relationships is central to your very being, and thus he needs to be willing to never toy with your affections, especially for what he deems his personal gain, consciously or unconsciously." Jessica took a sip from her glass. "When the right man comes around, he'll desire to lead you, but not without God first leading him. And in that leadership, he'll desire to understand your receptive and responsive spirit. He'll respect your instinct to nurture, like how you want to cuddle up with those puppies Dolly had."

"They are adorable, Mom. Who couldn't love them?"

Jessica smiled. "He will desire, more than anything else in his life, to know your thoughts, your feelings, your ways. And you'll feel the same about him." She reached across the table and squeezed her daughter's hand. "He'll choose you, not because you are the most beautiful girl (and you are beautiful), not because you are rich, because you're not, but because he desires to spend the rest of his life with you, every moment with you. You invade his thinking, his planning. And his desire to protect you and provide for you will be core to those thoughts. Not possessive in a controlling way, but a way that makes you entirely his so that he can bless and enrich your life, as much as you will want to bless and enrich his."

The timer on the stove went off, and Jessica got up to pull the bread from the oven. She set it on the sideboard near the window and then returned to the table. "Honey, when the right man comes your way, when the man God brings into your life for you to marry, you'll find that he is interested in bringing you joy and peace and security, just the way Jesus desires for you. He'll not intentionally hurt you emotionally or physically."

"Do men like that even exist. I mean, the guys at school..."

Jessica chuckled. "Are no doubt figuring this whole boy meets girl thing out like you are. The best thing you can do while you wait for the right one to come along is to found your life on a strong relationship with God. Let Christ be your husband for the years you are single. Let Him be the love of your life. When you read the Bible, read it as though it was His love letter to you. The stories He tells revealing to you His character, His love, His passions, and make them yours. Yield yourself fully to Him. Be in love with God. Cloth yourself with godliness. Let your quiet nature and amiable disposition please Christ. Then one day, God will introduce to you the one He has chosen to play that role of provider, protector, and leader for you."

Gina blushed then glanced at her watch. "Oh no, I'm late for basketball practice." She jumped from the table, grabbed her gym bag, and with a quick, "See you later, Mom," she ran out the door.

Jessica watched the door close behind her daughter. Dear Lord, please protect the heart of my daughter from the snakes and the wolves. Prepare the one You've chosen for her by drawing him into a deep relationship with You. Make him a man after Your own heart. 

"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." Song of Solomon 2:4

"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." 

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Fasting? Oh Lord, Help Me.

 "Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the ...