the crisis of love

There is a true story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was an ideal donor.

“Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked.

Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”

Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room. Mary, pale and thin. Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.

As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube.

With the ordeal almost over, Johnny’s voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence.

“Doctor, when do I die?”

Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he agreed to donate his blood. He thought giving his blood to his sister would mean giving up his life. In that brief moment, he had made his great decision. Johnny faced a “crisis of love”. He won the test and experienced love at the deepest level.

David Needham, Close to His Majesty

Real Love and Fidelity

It may be said that fidelity secures itself against unfaithfulness by becoming accustomed not to separate desire from love. For if desire travels swiftly and anywhere, love is slow and difficult; love actually does pledge one for the rest of one’s life, and it exacts nothing less than this pledge in order to disclose its real nature. That is why a man who believes in marriage can no longer believe seriously in ‘love at first sight’, still less in the ‘irresistible’ nature of passion…which is an alibi invoked by the guilty.   

Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World 

The Danger of Love

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.  

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

A one-way ticket to a toxic relationship

Many people are addicted to the ups and downs of romantic love. They are in it for the feels, so to speak. And when the feels run out, so do they. Many people get into a relationship as a way to compensate for something they lack or hate within themselves. This is a one-way ticket to a toxic relationship because it makes your love conditional — you will love your partner as long as they help you feel better about yourself. You will give to them as long as they give to you. You will make them happy as long as they make you happy.  This conditionality prevents any true, deep-level intimacy from emerging and chains the relationship to the bucking throes of each person’s internal dramas.

Mark Manson

Addicted to Love

Breaking up is hard to do. Literally. A brain study out of Rutgers shows getting over romantic rejection is similar to kicking an addiction. One of the study authors says, "When you've been rejected in love, you have lost life's greatest prize, which is a mating partner." Researchers examined the brains of more than dozen volunteers who had each recently been dumped but still loved the person who had rejected them. It turned out reminders of the beloved activated brain regions in the lover associated with addiction to cocaine and cigarettes. These same areas affect emotional control, rewards, addiction cravings, a sense of attachment, pain and distress. This brain system becomes activated in an attempt to win the person's affections again, according to the researchers. Details are in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

Perhaps the lesson here is that it's important to become addicted to someone who is good for you.

Stephen Goforth

The Paradox of Emotions

“A desire (or emotion) is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object.. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, ‘high’ or ‘low.’ It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful.”

Those words were penned by CS Lewis.

In other words, if you want to love your wife then concentrate--not on love--but on her.

If you wish more faith in God, do not concentrate on faith. Focus on God.

Stephen Goforth

and THIS is love

“In this is love..” or “In this way is seen the true love” (1 John 4:10). God didn’t look down and say, “Boy, I see you love me. I think I’ll love you.” Or “You’re a nice guy, I really like that.”

Instead: You were rebellious, arrogant, self-centered. God said, “I love you.”You ignored him, fought him, were bored with him. God said, “I love you.” You spit in his face, yelled at him, shook your fist.

God said, “I love you.” That’s what John means here.

We see what real love is by looking at what God did. He loved us with a desire to restore us, to make us whole.What separates real love from the pretenders is the aim. Real love aims at spiritual growth.

Stephen Goforth

Selfishness and Self-love

If it is a virtue to love my neighbor as a human being, it must be a virtue and not a vice-to love myself since I am a human being too. There is no concept of man in which I myself am not included. A doctrine which proclaims such an exclusion proves itself to be intrinsically contradictory. The idea expressed in the Biblical “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” implies that respect for one’s own integrity and uniqueness, love for and understanding of one’s own self, can not be separated from respect for and love and understanding of another individual. The love for my own self is inseparably connected with the love for any other self.

The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom, is rooted in one’s capacity to love, i.e., in care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge. If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he can not love at all.

The selfish person.. can see nothing but himself; he judges everyone and everything from its usefulness to him; he is basically unable to love. Does not this prove that concern for others and concern for oneself are unavoidable alternatives? This would be so if selfishness and self-love were identical. But.. selfishness and self-love, far from being identical, are actually opposites.

Eric Fromm, Man for Himself

Desire and Love

To love is an act. To be in love is a state.

Desire says Fidelity is passive. Love says Fidelity is active.

Eros is a love that sees and then desires. Agape is a love that knows and then grows.

Eros wants to use you. Agape wants to know the person.

Eros seeks love and desire itself. Agape seeks the beloved’s best.

Eros seeks to be in love. Agape seeks to love.

Eros says desire is love. Agape says desire’s place is within the process of love.


Stephen Goforth


No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there an impulse to believe that he does so, not because he is love, but because we are intrinsically lovable.. But then, how magnificently we have repented.. (so) we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely, he’ll like that? If not that, our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility. Thus, depth beneath depth and subtlety within subtlety, there remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own, attractiveness.

It is easy to acknowledge but almost impossible to realize for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little – however little – native luminosity?

We want to be loved for our cleverness, beauty, generosity, fairness usefulness. The first hint that anyone is offering us the highest love of all is a terrible shock.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

What does she see in him?!

It happened years ago, but I've never forgotten it. I was singing and speaking at a small Midwestern college. During an informal seminar in one of the dorm lounges, a couple came in late.

I couldn't help noticing something odd about them. The girl was very attractive, close to cover-girl standards. The guy looked as if he had just walked off the set for The Nerds. He was short, wore thick horn-rimmed glasses and a plaid short-sleeved shirt. He was definitely a candidate for getting sand kicked in his face.

But the strangest thing of all was that these two were obviously in love. What could she possibly see in him? I asked myself. Suddenly I realized — she was blind.

But what did she see in him? Everything. Everything that's important about who a person is, what love is, and what a real man is. She saw everything she needed to know about him.

Blessed are the blind, for they can see people as they really are. Woe to those who can see, for they will constantly be tripped up by the image.

John Fischer, Real Christians Don’t Dance!

the image

As Americans, we're obsessed with images. Who we are isn't as important as how we appear. In fact, we spend so much time and effort on appearances, we lose the ability to recognize the true identity of another person, or even ourselves. We've become more familiar with the image than we are with the real thing.

Dating relationships are especially vulnerable to this problem. A person isn't evaluated on character or individuality, but on how close he or she measures up to the other's image of the ideal mate. Real people take second chair to the ideal; they measure up to the image or they don't.

Have you ever noticed the excitement at the beginning of a romance that later faded with growing familiarity? In the early stages of any new friendship, we're usually seeing more of the image than we are of the real person. We've seen enough of the surface to see similarities between the object of our affections and the ideal we seek, but not enough to show us that our ideal and the new friend are not the same person. In essence, we're falling in love with the image, with the idea that this one person might be "it." Sooner or later the real person is going to start breaking through that image, and disillusionment will set in.

The success of a marriage comes not in finding the "right" person, but in the ability of both partners to adjust to the real person they inevitably realize they married. Some people never make this adjustment, becoming trapped in an endless search for an image that does not exist.

John Fischer, Real Christians Don’t Dance!

Love as a God

Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god; which of course can be re-stated in the form ‘begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.’ This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it, the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Loving too much

It is probably impossible to love any human being simply 'too much.'  We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.

But even this must be refined upon. Otherwise we shall trouble some who are very much on the right road but alarmed because they cannot feel towards God so warm a sensible emotion as they feel for the earthly Beloved. It is much to be wished--at least I think so--that we all, at all times, could. We must pray that this gift should be given us. But the question whether we are loving God or the earthly Beloved "more" is not, so far as concerns our Christian duty, a question about the comparative intensity of the two feelings. The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, to put first? To which claim does your will, in the last resort, yield?

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Dependency in Marriage

Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. But in actuality it is not love; it is a form of antilove. It has its genesis in a parental failure to love and it perpetuates the failure. It seeks to receive rather than to give. It nourished infantilism rather than growth. It works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate.

For passive dependent people the loss of the other is such a frightening prospect that they cannot face preparing for it or tolerating a process that would diminish the dependency or increase the freedom of the other. Consequently it is one of the behavioral hallmarks of passive dependent people in marriage that their role differentiations is rigid, and they seek to increase rather than diminish mutual dependency so as to make marriage more rather than less of a trap. By so doing, in the name of what they call love but what is really dependency, they diminish their own and each other’s freedom and stature.

M Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Becoming Real

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

“Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Love is Slow and Difficult

It may be said that fidelity secures itself against unfaithfulness by becoming accustomed not to separate desire from love. For if desire travels swiftly and anywhere, love is slow and difficult; love actually does pledge one for the rest of one’s life, and it exacts nothing less than this pledge in order to disclose its real nature. That is why a man who believes in marriage can no longer believe seriously in ‘love at first sight’, still less in the ‘irresistible’ nature of passion…which is an alibi invoked by the guilty.

Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World

real love

When a man is faithful to one woman, he looks on other women in quite another way, a way unknown to the world of Eros; other women turn into persons instead of being reflections or means. This ‘spiritual exercise’ develops new powers of judgment, self-possession, and respect.* The opposite in this of an erotic man, a steadfast man no longer strives to see a woman as merely an attractive or desirable body... he feels, as soon as tempted, he has been desiring only an illusory or fleeting aspect of what is actually a complete life. Thus temptation recedes disconnected instead of making itself into an obsession; and fidelity is made secure by the clear-sightedness it induces.

(*‘Respect’, as I use the word here, means that we recognize in a being the fullness of a person. A person, according to Kant’s famous definition, is what cannot be used by man as an instrument or thing.)

Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World

We are Loved!

We’ve heard a thousand times that God loves us. But one day the meaning hit us. WE ARE LOVED. Really loved! Not just for what we can do, or what we have, tor what we have to offer. Not out of pity or obligation.

People love like that. They love what they think we are. We all know that about each other. We play games to keep it that way.

We try to always show the side of ourselves that we think people love us for. And we have learned form harsh experience that if we don’t, we lose! (People can change their minds about loving us.)

Sometimes we play our games very well. Sometimes we fool everyone except ourselves, and deep inside we say, “You love me… But if you really knew, you wouldn’t.”

I think some of us have a hard time even liking ourselves. We think we don’t have enough to offer, and that makes it hard to love anyone else! Giving is then conditional, tentative. There is a wall of protection… that tough shell of “I’m not going to let you hurt me.”

We all know folks who aren’t very easy to work with because they don’t feel loved. They’re defensive and wary, often depressed and pessimistic.

But if we could all really see that God – the perfect, great omnipotent creator and orginal cause of the whole universe – really, loves us.. that “the One who knows us best, loves us most,” it would change our lives! God, whom we have wronged the most, loves us - and has found a way to come to where we are… and forgive us! No person, no power, no circumstance, no situation,, no station in life, nobody’s opinion – nothing- can ever make us fell unloved again. We are of value. WE have been redeemed. We are totally, unreservedly, forever LOVED!

We can dare to love back! We can risk hurt or rejection. We can try again, and even if we fail, we can win. We are loved by the only person whose opinion ultimately matters. We can LOVE. We can love even those who haven’t “earned” it. Even those who reject it. Even those who don’t need it. (Who’s that?!) We are loved!

Bill Gaither, songwriter

a Tale of Two Artists

The first of two artists said, "I have traveled the world over and I have seen a lot. But I have not found one person worth painting. I have found flaws in everyone and just can't bring myself to paint them."

The second artist disagreed, "I may not be a great artist; I have never been to Paris - or even New York. But among my unimportant friends living in my small rural town, I have not found anyone too insignificant to paint. There is always a better side. I may not be a great artist, but I enjoy my art."

Which is one is the true artist? The one who finds nothing worth painting? Or the one who brings a certain something to his craft enabling him to see a world of beauty others are blind to? In the same way, some people find no one worthy of their love, while others find everyone worthy.

Should I search for attractive people to paint, to love? Or should I look for the attractiveness of the soul within?