More Like Falling In Love Part 3: Why Love Scares Us
It ought to be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out, come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling in love…
When I first got the idea for this song, it seemed like an obvious enough truth that God prefers our passionate devotion instead of cool intellectual assent, that he desires the kind of worshipful obedience that overflows from a relationship with him instead of the obligatory obedience based on fear and attempts at self-sufficiency.
It seemed like a no-brainer – maybe almost too obvious if anything. And yet I’ve been surprised to receive more push back on this song than any other – criticism that the song is based too much on love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily bothered or threatened by this – by and large most people have embraced the song, but I’ve been perplexed by the handful of people who have expressed concern over it.
I guess I could understand it if they assume that the kind of love I’m talking about in my song is based on emotionalism – warm fuzzy feelings about God, reducing Him to a cosmic boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe they think the love I’m talking about here is the same kind of thing our culture tries to pass off as “love”: self-centered, hormone induced, emotionally based romantic Hollywood “love” without commitment or backbone.
Somebody recently asked my wife in casual conversation if she still felt I was her “soul mate” or if she wanted to “switch it up” and see if there was someone else out there for her. I don’t think this girl was intentionally trying to undermine and destroy our marriage, but the question revealed how much our culture has distorted what “love” is, perverting it into a matter of selfish fulfillment instead of a life-long bond meant to daily ask of two people to die to themselves, their selfishness and sin nature, and serve the one they are bound to.
My friend Andrew Peterson says that marriage is God’s way of helping us die a little each day to our spouse because God knows we aren’t man enough to do it all at once. When we choose to fall in love with a person, we are in a way choosing the person that we will die for – and not the kind of death where we take a bullet. As heroic as that may be, it is in some ways easier than the more difficult business of a lifetime of dying to our own selfishness and pride, dying to our need to be right, the need to have the upper hand.
If we don’t think of love as being a force that takes hold of us and asks us to give our whole life, then I can understand why we might be troubled by a song that champions salvation and discipleship as something more like falling in love than anything else. But if we know what falling in love really means, then we would rightly understand it as an event that will consume our whole life, as something as terrifying as it is wonderful.
And I wonder if this is the real issue… We are afraid of real love and flee from it, for love, if nothing else, is terrifying. Love, like no other force, will cut to the core and peel back the layers, exposing our hearts. Love asks us to trust, it draws us out of our protective hiding places, it requires vulnerability. We are defenseless against a Love that won’t stop until it sets us free, and freedom is nearly as terrifying as love.
Most of us have been prisoners so long – since the day we were born – that we’re like the inmates who come to love and depend on the predictability of the walls of their prison cells. Freedom is disruptive and represents a new way of living that is beyond our control – and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if control is what’s at stake here. When we love and allow ourselves to be loved, we give up control.
My wife shared a poem with me recently called “The Man Watching” by Rainer Maria Rilker about a coming storm. Here’s part of it:
What we choose to fight is so tiny! What fights us is so great! If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm, we would become strong too, and not need names…
When we win it’s with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small. What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us. I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: when the wrestler’s sinews grew long like metal strings, he felt them under his fingers like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel (who often simply declined the fight) went away proud and strengthened and great from that harsh hand, that kneaded him as if to change his shape. Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.
Love is the greater thing that wants to defeat us, the “magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God” as Frederick Buechner says. By insisting on the legalistic and intellectual terms of our religion, are we trying to maintain control of the relationship – making our salvation, sanctification, and redemption about what we do? Are we refusing to be defeated by Love? Are we refusing to be set free?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.