Love means never having to say you’re sorry, right?
You’ve heard this since middle school. Love isn’t supposed to change people. Love isn’t supposed to hurt people. Love is joy and ease, it’s the romantic walks and the lazy kisses and the sunshine and the sweetness. Somewhere in the distance, an 80’s love ballad plays as you and your bae slowly sway around an empty dance floor. It’s all happy. It’s all good.
And that’s not love.
Love is not the sweetness. Love is not the shopping sprees, not the promposals, not the dancing or the flowers or the badly-written poetry. Why? Because people are people, and people cannot be all joy and light all the time. People cannot survive on a steady diet of boxed chocolates and Safeway® flowers. People are too broken for that. But modern love often ignores the brokenness innate in human beings, ignoring our nature in favor of empty promises of “forever.” It tells the beloved that no, he or she is perfect just as he or she is, that no change is needed or wanted, that the good times will be theirs forever, with no change. But that’s not love, that’s stagnation. And in stagnate waters, nasty things breed and bloom. Greed, lust, pride, and sloth creep to the surface of love that’s not willing to change. You can fill the stagnate emptiness with porn, or shopping, or hobbies, or TV binge sessions, but the emptiness remains, because human beings do have empty spaces. We are all full of chips and cracks that are meant to be painstakingly filled with virtue, and a love that says that those chips and cracks do not exist is not worthy of the name. Maybe we let them stay because we’re afraid that, without the broken pieces, we won’t be ourselves anymore. But if we let those cracks grow, if we let our sins and pet vices fester and bloom, those will destroy us. But we still cling to the veneer of love, the promises, the chocolate and flowers. To let go, and walk out into the fast-moving waters of true love, is a terrifying prospect.
People often choose the comfortable promises of forever because change is scary. We do not want to be told that we’re broken. We do not like being reminded that we have problems. It’s never fun when a loved one reminds us that we can be selfish, or lustful, or depressing. We don’t like to think about our sins, but these are the things that drive good relationships into the ground. If we ignore these flaws, if we let them breed in the stagnation of our souls, they will destroy us. We will drown, poisoned by the sins we don’t want to think about, choked by our protective shields of pretty words and fine gifts. In seeking to keep our selves safe, we will let them be destroyed. We lose ourselves, our true selves, when we refuse to change.
Love must exist with change. For love of us, Christ changed from spirit to flesh. For love of Christ, Peter and the apostles changed from comfortable workmen to wandering, homeless preachers. For love of each other, we must change, as well. Love is, in many ways, the only thing that allows us to change. Love is fearless that way– it sees the bad, as well as the good, and pushes us gently-yet-firmly towards virtue. It fights with our lesser selves, with the chips and the cracks, and for the sake of love, we have to let it win. We have to change. We have to grow. We have to keep moving.
This idea has been shown to me especially in the past year, as I’ve been in a relationship with one of my favorite people ever. John and I love each other, and because we love each other, we’ve changed. It’s not that we’ve become different people– we’ve become ourselves in a way totally new, yet totally familiar. Through the discussions, the disagreements, the cuddling, and the love, I’ve become calmer, less emotional, more open and kind. He’s become braver, stronger, and more conscientious. Our empty spaces are being filled, not just with the joy of romance, but with the abiding peace of virtue and the healing that comes from mutual reliance on Christ and each other. We let ourselves change. And we keep changing, keep becoming better, because we aren’t afraid to call each other on to virtue. We will the good of each other, the true good, not just the temporary, still, quiet comfort of romance. Loving John has helped clear away the algae and bugs of my old vices and hangups, the brokenness that I used to embrace as just being who I was. It’s a hopeful thing to realize that I’ll get even better as this goes on. I’m not afraid of change, because I know that love necessitates change.
If you’re single or in a relationship, don’t be afraid of change. Change doesn’t mean losing yourself. Change done for love, through Love, means finding yourself. It’s part of growing up and becoming who you were made to be. Remember… God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.
Love to all!