I watched a news report recently about a growing demand for ‘hug therapy’. The report interviewed and filmed a young man with his hug therapist for a session of cuddles. His explanation for the benefit was the feeling of human physical contact without the complication that comes with relationship.
I see more and more children who lack resilience for relationships. Much stems from the brokenness in families that is spreading like wildfire through our western culture. So many give up when times are hard. Some undoubtedly for good reason, but our culture is now so saturated with individualism that we all too easily reject the difficulties that in the short term bring no pleasure or reward. How often are we sharing quotes on social media that make us feel good or resolve us to action? Many are empowering the individual, perhaps urging us to find ‘partners not projects’.
Are we becoming so focused on ourselves and our own false sense of what it means to be happy that we are rejecting the real meaning of love? God shows us throughout the Bible that only love changes people. We read of God bringing fire and flood – but ultimately did any of that change the heart of man? It follows that without love, nothing changes and we remain lost and empty.
When we adopt an egocentric model of our lives with the world spinning around us, for us, we become entrenched in a series of expectations that only lead to disappointment. When Jesus comes to live among us, He gives us the greatest commandment to love God first, then others AS ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).
I love the idea behind a Japanese art called ‘Kintsugi’ which is literally translated as ‘golden repair’. The premise is that pottery when broken is not something to throw away but instead presents us with the opportunity to join the fragments back together using liquid gold, thereby creating a new piece that is more beautiful with its golden ‘scars’ than it was in its original state.
But searching for love is not easy! Essentially we are searching for someone with whom we have the freedom to be ourselves and have that imperfect self loved unconditionally. But there are misconceptions about the ‘unconditional’ nature of being loved, because unconditional love does not mean without trial. Unconditional does not give each individual carte blanche to behave in a manner that might upset the other and get away with it. It means learning to communicate thoughts and feelings in a manner that enables both parties to ‘become partners’ for life.
A soulmate is not found ready-made, they are grown from seed, and like a meal prepared and cooked slowly; which over time is more delicious and satisfying than one zapped in the microwave!
So how do we begin to prepare this ‘slow-cooked’ relationship in a world that is all about immediate gratification? And what is our Christian flavouring that we are to add in?
I saw on Facebook that even the Catholic Church is getting in on the use of technology to help bring ‘like-minded’ souls together. But I worry about ruling people in or out of our lives based on a photograph or brief resume. Add in to the concern that people can create themselves to be whoever they or you want them to be online. What part does truth and authenticity play when we turn to such methods? Are these sites not simply propagating a false sense of who we are and what we desire? And is what we think we want really what we need?
“Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.” Psalm 119:37
When we turn our lives over to God, He often takes us down roads that we did not expect, and would never have anticipated. He so often closes the door on one hope, only to open another to a destination we would never have chosen independently but ultimately one which leads to a far better place.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV.
By whatever means we find someone to ‘court’ how do we then conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians1:27) that will steer us towards deep and meaningful relationship? We first remember that intimacy in relationship is separate from the passion of lust (1 Thessalonians 4:8).
Proverbs 19:2 tells us “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way”. The advice here is that getting to know someone slowly is better than jumping in blinded by our desire for them. Love is not the same as desire. Sex fulfils desire, but sex is not love. And that pleasure is something to look forward to when you have committed, without commitment it is reduced to a meaningless activity that creates a false sense of bonding.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Proverbs 4:23
The power of slow is evident throughout the Bible. God is love (1 John 4:8) and we are told that love is patient (Corinthians 13:4). God is never in a hurry.
Listening to ‘Por una cabeza’ I began thinking about the similarities between courtship and the Argentine Tango which this song is so often associated with. The concept of this dance is of ‘walking together’ which also appeals because we talk as Christians of ‘walking with Jesus’ – in gentleness and patience.
The dance begins with an invitation; eye contact is made between a couple and a nod signals the acceptance. One person leads and the other follows, inserting the discipline of self-control and cooperation, otherwise the dance falters. Though there are basic moves that categorise it, the Argentine tango is heavily improvised – so a ‘walk’ with one partner will not be the same as another.
The idea is to feel the movement through the music. Dance like any art is an expression of our inner selves, altering the emotion of those who engage with it. Verbal and non-verbal communication needs to be interpreted and understood clearly. Though the dance appears sensual, the attention of each is on the other, therefore the self is lost somewhere between. So it may feel exciting to be close, or touching, but it is not the primary focus.
Courtship – like a slow dance between two souls; either a brief encounter or a partnership that endures for a lifetime.
Plenty of food for thought!
Father God, we thank you for the fullness of Your love and favour towards us. We thank You Lord, that You do not give up on us and are always with us through the joy and trials of life. As we freely receive Your love, help us Father to freely give. Help us to mend the hearts of others with liquid gold supplied by the fruits of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Show us heavenly Father the real meaning of love which is not found in the lust of the eyes, but in the actions we choose to make. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.