Most rom coms go the same way – two individuals on completely separate paths fall in love, experience relational conflict, and overcome it through their feelings for each other.
A survey was done by Thought Catalog, asking 16 individuals to share the worst relationship advice they had received, and I was surprised by some of their answers. One of the individuals said, “[The worst relationship advice I received was] that if you love each other, that is enough. From my experience there’s a lot more that goes into a relationship than love, and most of the time love actually isn’t enough.”
We’re fed the message by our movies and media that as long as two individuals love one another, it will work. But our generation isn’t buying it. We see the effect of broken relationships all around us and wonder what we are missing.
A man after God’s own heart
David was a man after God’s own heart. He served and trusted the Lord, but in the area of relationships, he was not so successful.
“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’”
Like in the typical romance movie, David and Bathsheba were the most unlikely to “fall in love”. After all, both were already married. They had major obstacles to overcome. So much so that David had Bathsheba’s husband killed. Their love was not enough for a successful relationship. Their forbidden love had major consequences. The baby that Bathsheba carried would die, the sword would never depart from David’s household, and his wives would be given to other men and publicly shamed.
This is obviously an extreme example of love gone wrong. Most people don’t kill someone else’s spouse to get what they want. But this story brings into question the power of love. How is it that love can bring about this much destruction?
A tale of two loves
Augustine, an early Christian philosopher, recognized that all humans are driven by desire, or in other words, love. In our natural fallen state, we experience something called “cupiditas”. This is a love that is selfish and indulgent – it seeks fleshly pleasure. Another word that would accurately describe “cupiditas” is the Greek word “eros”, a passion or an impulse that seeks instant gratification. Ultimately, it leads to utter chaos and confusion. With everyone seeking their own pleasure, there is nothing but disunity and disorder.
The complete opposite of this kind of love is “caritas”. Caritas is a love that is completely selfless and self-giving. It is a love that belongs to God and those who are part of His kingdom. It is a love that is not only selfless, but makes us one with Him. Those who have been called and redeemed into this family are able to resist their self-serving desires and are called to live out caritas. Augustine, however, was not so naive to think that once someone was called into the kingdom of God, he would no longer struggle against the urge of pursuing selfish desires. He knew that as long as we live in a fallen world, there will be a constant war within ourselves between cupiditas and caritas.
We see this in the life of David. He was a man who had been called into God’s kingdom and was given the gift of caritas, but gave in to cupiditas. He saw, lusted, and succumbed to sin that led him to destruction.
A love like no other
Let’s circle back. Why is it that we find a problem with the idea that in a relationship, all you need is love? Why is it that we see so much brokenness and pain surrounding two individuals who once seemed to have the perfect love life? Where did they go wrong?
You see, we have let cupiditas rule our relationships. We have asked what our significant other can do to meet our needs. We have complained when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we once felt in the relationship. We have thought that they would fix our loneliness. We have thought that they would fix our insecurity. But it only left us with expectations that could never be met and and a relationship that seems impossible to fix.
So what’s the cure? How can we let this caritas heal our broken relationships?
- The first step is recognizing the overwhelming, self-giving love that God the Father pours out on us through the blood of His Son. He showed the ultimate caritas on the cross where he sacrificed himself so that we can be made the pure and blameless bride that we were created to be.
- The second step is identifying the ways in which cupiditas has dominated the way we have viewed and interacted in relationships. How have we let our selfish desire for gratification control us.
- The third step is reframing our understanding of the ultimate purpose of relationships. It is not for our own pleasure, nor is it for the pleasure of the other. The grandest purpose of our relationships is to glorify God. This can done by reflecting his nature in the way that we interact with one another.
This is not to say that caritas is the only factor in a successful relationship. Unity in direction and purpose, personalities, background, and having similar beliefs and convictions are certainly factors. But in order for a thriving relationship, a self-giving love that unites us with God and one another must be the foundation.