A common misconception of love is that it is an action which only takes place once. Whether we admit it or not, our lives testify to a subconscious belief that love is something we commit to, sign, vow, proclaim “I do”, buy some flowers and wallah!, we’re in love and always will be. Yes, yes…we all like to acknowledge our mature and grown-up understanding that love takes a lot of work, but what we fail to realize is that it:
Thus husbands are emotionally detached and wives distant or dejected. Instead of true love we all wander about finding solace in Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres, divorce rates are challenging our national debt “race you to the top?” and Ke$ha wrote “Your Love is My Drug” to top it all off.
When it comes to love…we really must admit that we haven’t got a clue; we must admit that we are all desperately in need of learning to love all over again.
Of course, any hope of understanding true love begins in the form of Christ on the cross. Ironically, this is also where our misconceptions of love also take root. We seem to think of the Christ’s death and resurrection as a historical event, something that happened, took place, occurred and was a completed… all in the past. While all this is true (meaning the death and resurrection was an actual historical event, not some construed concept wrought at the hands of paranoid, terrified and simultaneously power-hungry disciples) we are cheating ourselves and devaluing God’s redemptive plan if we allow our theology to center on a mere historical occurrence.
What I mean by this is that Christ’s death and resurrection is not something that happened, it’s something that is; it is an event that transcends all time and all history to encompass and cloak every single breathing moment of our existence. Rather than seeing His redemptive work on Calvary as a dot on a timeline (somewhere between dinosaurs and Darwin) we must learn to understand Christ’s sacrifice as a dome that encompasses all of time, a veil that was lifted on our entire history and an event that took place within our own story but also above and over it thus permeating everything that happened before and after.
The greatest act of love was a transcendent occurrence, one that is re-lived and required every day of our lives. Christ’s sacrifice for us is one that is just as real, poignant and applicable today as it was for the weeping faithful at Golgotha 2,000 years ago. And thank God for that. Because we Christians cannot, without gross quantities of disillusionment, escape the reality that we need Christ’s love. When I wake up and curse my plumber because the there’s no hot water after I flush the toilet even though “Yerp, I fixed ur up nyce n gewd!”, I need Christ’s love. When I cut off a woman in traffic and rather than apologizing give her the finger even after I realize she’s a senior citizen with an uncanny resemblance to Mother Theresa, I need Christ’s love. When it’s 3 AM and I’m lying in bed plotting evil schemes against my roommate because he’s keeping me up with a terrible ruckus as he frantically searches for his pet python that “somehow” escaped in our room, I really really really need Christ’s love. I need Christ’s love so I can give Christ’s love.
As much as we need this love, we need to admit what that love costs. We live in a manner that betrays our belief that love is easy. Ergo our Christian walk, marriages and entire lives ought to also be easy… yet we claim to follow a Savior who died the brutal and humiliating death of a petty criminal.
Now, these are all glorious theories (if I do say so myself), but when rubber hits the road they mean nothing. Thus, this all begs the question: what does this look like in the context of a marriage?
But nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I can’t be practicing aspects of matrimonial love now. Because the more I can practice loving those close to me today, the better I’ll be at it if I am one day married (stop laughing, miracles still happen). Point being: I need to learn to love my roommates.
Throughout various roommate experiences (like the time my housing buddy lost a reptile of the snake assortment in our room…now that’s a story) I’ve learned a very important lesson about living with someone: it either sucks less, sucks moderately, or really sucks. This is because people are people, we are prideful, sinful and bound to step on each other’s toes if not go out of our way to intentionally stomp on them. When you put any two (or more, God help us) pride conjuring machines in a confined space for an elongated amount of time, it’s just a matter of milliseconds before multiple conflicts erupt.
“Oh please,” says everyone ever, “I get that love is difficult and takes work…but my spouse will be so much easier to love than…than…my rooommmmateee.” (insert look of disgust)
“Oh, and why’s that?”
Ah yes, the sex card, well played.
It is true you’ll be able to have sex…. but what’s also true (so I’m told) is that sex realllllyyyyy doesn’t solve arguments.
But think about it: if I don’t learn how to show love to my roommates now, when every night I can retreat to my room and sleep alone, chances are it’s not going to be much easier when I’m married and, instead of retreat and solitude, each night ends with: “Oh! That’s right…we sleep together! And oh! Lookit that! You’re stealing the covers again! Oh, joy! I do love thee!”
“But,” screams my inner everything, “I don’t want to love my roommates. I don’t want to address conflict. I don’t want to go out of my way to build a relationship with them. I don’t want to invest the time in hanging out with them and getting to know them. I don’t want to clean my dishes right now, no matter how much that annoys them…they’re a hypochondriatic clean freak anyways!”
And this is when my theology becomes uncomfortably practical. It’s when my allegiance to Christ and His ethic of love takes more than a prayer at meal times and a dusty Bible on my bedside table. It’s when I have to wake up each day and cry out for Christ’s love, knowing that’s the only way I’m going to be able to love anyone.
Because it’s absolutely true that I don’t want to turn off the lights every time I leave the room; I don’t care what article in what hipster magazine my progressive-LL Bean model of a roommate read that says we’re consuming the global electricity disproportionately; their pretentious attitude is consuming my patience disproportionately. I don’t want to have self-control when they’re being obnoxious and I’m holding a frying pan that would look great smacking them upside the head. I don’t want to pray anything but the curses of Sodom and Gomorrah upon them when it’s 3AM and “Hey bro…I dunno know how…uh… but…remember Snickers my cute, adorable and utterly heinous boa constrictor? Well…he escaped in the room…”. And what’s absolutely certain is that I don’t want to look in our bathroom mirror (after 15 minutes of waiting for them to finishing showering, thanks for making me late for work) and admit that I might actually be the problem. In short: I don’t want to have to love them again and again.
But that’s my calling. And the more I learn what love is, the more I learn that I can’t fulfill its demands without some (read: a crapload of) help. The beauty of recognizing my need is fulfilled in the realization that Christ’s love is present; it exists on a daily, moment-to-moment basis and it permeates and overcomes even the most obnoxious, prideful and wicked corners of my soul. If I have any hope of being a good roommate, let alone a God-fearing husband down the road, it is only possible with Christ’s love soaking into every iota of my existence. Only then can I face each day and, slowly but surely, learn to love again and again and again.