Last Friday, I blogged about Falling in Love. This is the continuation of that one, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to do that first.
So if love isn’t just a feeling, an uncontrollable emotion or impulse, what is it?
The story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 29 has the elements of falling in love – first sight, extreme bursts of emotion, and almost superhuman ability to act. But it wasn’t just emotion that got them there. There was something more. Now their story isn’t a perfect one. In fact, like all love stories, it has its black eyes. But it’s still helpful to us.
Background: Jacob has deceived his family and has to leave the home. He’s alone and unsure about his future. Then he runs into a group of shepherds. They’re waiting for the other shepherds and their flocks to gather because there’s a huge stone blocking the well. It takes multiple men to move the stone so a lot of their time is spent waiting for each other. Jacob, the savvy businessman, immediately notices the inefficiency but does nothing about it. Then Rachel comes along with her flock.
9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.
10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep.
11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.
Jacob’s love for Rachel was obviously emotional. He kissed her (we don’t know where) and began to cry out loud. Doesn’t get much more emotional than that. This is amazing thinking that he had just seen her. In The Godfather, this is described as being struck by the thunderbolt. I still remember the moment that happened to me with Carla. Love has the element of EMOTION.
But it wasn’t just that. It says in verse 10 “he went over and rolled the stone away” – the stone that the other shepherds couldn’t roll away for themselves. His love wasn’t just an emotion. It involved ACTION. He did something about it. His love wasn’t confined to words and sentiments; it was seen in his actions.
Let’s apply this to ourselves. This person we say we love, is there anything beyond our emotions? Is there any sign of action? How about the person who claims to love us, what do their actions really communicate?
What kind of actions are we looking for? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives a list that could be helpful:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love is patient. Patience is not based on emotion. It’s an action. In fact, patience is necessary especially when you don’t feel like showing it. Is this person who loves you patient?
Love is not self-seeking. Consider your actions – are you driven more for your own pleasure and comfort or to see the other person become the best they can be? While it is easy for all of us to claim, the results will speak for themselves. Relationships will force us to make decisions that reveal whether or not we are acting for ourselves or for others.
Jacob’s love went even further than the emotions and actions. His love had something that set it apart. Let’s see:
18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.”
20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
Read that again. Jacob was offered payment for his work and Jacob worked for free for seven years in order to be married to Rachel. We still see the element of ACTION - Jacob was willing to work for her. We also see the element of EMOTION - the years flew by because of his love.
Jacob was ready to pledge his commitment for the next seven years because his love wasn’t based on just emotion. Very few emotions, if any, can be sustained for years. But Jacob would continue to love her for the rest of her life because of this one element. And because this element is absent in many love stories, lasting love has become scarce. That is the element of DECISION.
Loving someone for life involves making the decision ahead of time that you will love this person, even when the emotions run out. This requires a willingness to stake everything for that person.
People fear this decision because they say they don’t want to be stuck in a passionless relationship. But as my wise mom once told me, “Motion produces emotion.” Don’t wait for the feeling to act lovingly. Act now and the feelings will follow. Also, this concern betrays the fact that we are more concerned about our comfort and pleasure than giving to the other person.
Through this we see that the length of time that you are dating isn’t the most important thing. What matters is that this is what you’re pursuing.
Emotions are crucial and exciting. They make the relationship fun and worthwhile, but they are only one of the elements working. Our actions reveal and communicate our intentions. And the decision to act in love is what keeps it going, even when emotions run low. Long enough for the emotions to surge back again.
Hopefully this makes us see two things: that this is really the way love is suppose to be. And that it’s very difficult, practically impossible, for anyone to do that consistently. Even Jacob loses his temper with Rachel in the next chapter.
How do we get this love then? We’ll see in the next blog on Wednesday.
Last three pictures to illustrate the importance of each one: