It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
***Special thanks to Christy Wong at Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***
Hayley DiMarco is the bestselling author of more than 30 books, including Dateable, Marriable, Mean Girls, and The Woman of Mystery. She spent the early part of her career working for Nike in Portland, Oregon, and Thomas Nelson publishing in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2002 Hayley founded Hungry Planet, a company intensely focused on feeding the world’s appetite for truth by producing books and new media, taking on issues of faith and life with a distinctly modern voice.
Michael DiMarco is the CEO of Hungry Planet. In addition to the nine books he has authored or co-authored, Michael also created The Hungry Planet Bible Project, a 10,000–mile road trip designed to give a voice to the hungry and homeless. Hayley and Michael are the proud parents of dozens of Hungry Planet books, including 11 best sellers, four ECPA Christian Book Award finalists, one ECPA winner, and one amazing human, their daughter, Addison.
Visit the authors’ website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Believing Love Is a Feeling
One of the biggest acts of Cupidity is to believe that love is a feeling and nothing more. While certainly it is true that love elicits some strong emotions, love itself isn’t a feeling.
Let’s say someone makes you feel amazing. You can’t quit thinking about the person, and you are sure that it is love. So you confess your undying love to the object of your affection. Then a few days, a few months, or a few years down the road, that amazing feeling goes away. Does that mean you never loved the person or you stopped loving them? Or does it mean that feelings of love can’t be an indicator of the existence of love? It has to be one or the other. Which one you choose says a lot about your core beliefs about love.
Early on in a relationship, it is easy for things other than love to mimic love and cause people to believe they have found their dream come true. There are so many other things that feel just like love. Take jumping out of an airplane, for example. The rush, the adrenaline, the fear, and even the pleasure of that specific moment can have the same emotional reaction and payoff as love’s first expression. But obviously, jumping from extreme heights is more about fear and adrenaline than eternal commitment. A guy can feel the same kinds of emotions for his car as he does for his girl. And a woman can feel the same kind of euphoric rush when she buys a pair of shoes as when her man brings her flowers. But that doesn’t mean it’s accurate to call those passions love.
In two different relationships before I got married, I committed to making it work based on the feeling that this was the only “good guy” who would love me. Fear was my compelling emotion—I was afraid I couldn’t do any better. I saw the warning signs in each relationship, but out of fear I chose to overlook them instead of doing a faithful inspection of the problems.?v
A lot of single people commit Cupidity when they get so wrapped up in the emotion of love that they neglect the truth about love. They ignore red flags, concerns of friends and family, and even warnings from the very object of their love. A well-known Christian counselor once said, “Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.” And while he is no doubt a smart man and that sounds like romantic and sound advice, have you ever considered how many people marry someone they “can’t live without,” and then four years later they divorce the same person they no longer can live with? Did things fall apart because their way of choosing, based on a feeling, was wrong? Or was it because their definition of love as needing to feel a certain way was faulty? We could answer that for you, but we’re not going to. Let’s just say that no matter what the answer is, judging the presence of love based on how you feel is a dangerous, er, proposal.
If you are honest with yourself, would you say that you feel your way through love? Did you (or would you) choose your mate based on how they make you feel? Have you rejected someone because your feelings changed? Do you consider feelings the best indicator of success or failure in a relationship? Though feelings should be noted, they can’t be followed blindly, because when they are, they overshadow God’s commands.
Many women can be heard to say things like, “He just doesn’t love me anymore.” And what they often mean is, “He doesn’t make me feel the same way anymore.” We’ve considered that idea a lot. Because we were head over heels in love when we were dating and got married, and since then there have been fewer and fewer of those emotional highs. In fact, we’ve gone weeks, even months, without them. And the questions that keep lurking are, Does he love me anymore? Did she ever love me? But then, being the practical souls we are, we thought about how hard life would be if we permanently felt the same emotional high that we felt in the beginning of the relationship. How would we get any sleep, living in the same house together? When would we remove our lips from each other long enough to eat? How would we concentrate at work when all we could do was imagine being with the other person? That initial feeling of love that is so fantastical is also distracting—nay, all consuming. It’s your soul’s occupation, and while a busy soul is a happy soul, it’s also a pleasure-driven soul, finding little strength or focus for things other than true love. We aren’t dissing the amazing sensation of “love’s first kiss,” as our three-year-old fairy tale–loving daughter puts it, but we are saying that it can be a bit of an obsession.
In relationships—especially at the beginning—it is easy to take the incredible emotions another person brings you to as a sure sign that love is in the air . . . when all it might be is the thrill of the chase or the excitement of a mystery waiting to be unraveled. So that brings us back to the original premise that love isn’t a feeling but an action. How do we know? Because God commands it. All over Scripture God commands us to love. Love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, even love our enemies. But if love were a feeling, then God couldn’t command it. No one can order you to feel something. Emotions don’t work like that—you don’t turn them on and off, on command. But actions can be commanded: “Share your toys.” “Don’t hit back!” “Don’t touch that” (not to be confused with, “You can’t touch this”).
But maybe there’s more to it than even that. Have you considered why God gave us the command to love in the first place? If love came naturally to all of us, if it were always our first response to all people, in all situations, then God wouldn’t have had to make it the focus of his instructions to us (1 Corinthians 16:14). God sees the need to command us to love, because love isn’t usually our first response, except when we are deep in it. In those situations, love is easy, natural—like second nature. Love is your “soul” focus: that person gets all the best of you. You are patient, kind, caring, and selfless, and you overlook faults. You are the perfect picture of love in human form. Wow! But God knows us better than that. He knows that love, in order to prove itself true, must be tested. It must stand in the face of opposition (Matthew 5:44); it must give of itself even when it gets nothing in return (Luke 6:35); it must be a conscious choice and not an emotional response (Matthew 5:46).
According to a poll taken in March 2008 by the Barna Research Group, the divorce rate for Christian couples is statistically identical to all other faith groups, as well as atheists and agnostics. Whether or not the Christians polled truly lived biblical lives is questionable—we have no way of knowing their hearts or their basis for calling themselves Christians. But as a random poll of people who consider themselves “saved,” this seems to be confirmation that feelings, not faith, most profoundly affect the actions of those who consider themselves faithful.
When you feel your way through love, you are apt to ignore the warning signs that signal a future of difficulty, if not pain. They might even be signs from God that this person is not the person. So emotions can’t be allowed to have the final say on who you choose.
For the married person, trials and emotionally difficult experiences are part of the pattern of love. These trials—these tests of faith and love—are what lead to sanctification, the purification of your faith. Every time a trial rears its evil head, your first question should be What does God want me to learn about my sin from this? not What is my spouse’s sin in this? According to pastor and teacher James MacDonald, “God’s goal is not to make you happy; it’s to make you holy.”
When love is based on a feeling, you have Cupidity: stupid, stupid actions taken to try to get more love. But when love is based on actions, you actually get amazing feelings after you give in fully to the kind of self-sacrificing love that Jesus taught us through his life. See, when love is patient, kind, humble, meek, and all the other things Jesus taught, it is at its best. And the most amazing thing is that it isn’t based on what others do or fail to do. It isn’t dependent on situations but on an immovable and perfect God. In short, it’s heavenly. Harp music, please!
So we’ve established that love is an action, not a feeling. But what does that look like? Love is an action not in the sense of “start the film rolling” but in the sense of “it’s not what you feel; it’s what you do.” When you look at it like that, suddenly love becomes less about how people make you feel or what they do to you, but what you do in response to them.
Wait a minute . . . you mean love isn’t about how a person makes me feel but about how I treat them? Yep, that’s it in a nutshell—good job. So if love is lacking in your life, it isn’t because of the other person; it’s because of you. Ouch, that hurts even as it’s coming out. Let’s walk through this together—it’s too scary alone. According to Scripture, you aren’t going to be judged based on the love you feel but the love you give: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Can’t speak for you, but we speak for ourselves when we say that most of these things—like patience, humility, not insisting on getting our own way, never giving up, and enduring all things—ain’t what we originally had in mind when we thought about what love should feel like.
Finding Fabio Unshaven in a White T-Shirt
Let me just jump in here. One day I was bemoaning the fact that the romance was gone from our marriage. Because romance is how a woman knows for sure that a man loves her—crazy, I know, but blame it on Disney. Anyway, that day I took to heart God’s command to love regardless of what I was getting. I took the time to notice that God is love (1 John 4:16), and my thoughts and actions of love given to my “undeserving” husband transported God’s very presence into my life. It was as if my act of obedience produced love and romance, right then and there (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 John 4:11-12). And suddenly I thought that Michael was the dreamiest man on the planet. His unshaven face, white T-shirts, and holey socks were all just as they should be. Poor guy—he had no idea what I was going through or why I was so difficult to live with. It was my own misguided ideas of how things should be that made me crazy and caused me to consider him “undeserving” of my love. But when I saw things from God’s perspective, all the smoke cleared and I could see true love. It wasn’t what I was feeling about Michael but what I believed about God and who he commands me to be that counted. (BTW, Michael is currently editing this unshaven in a white T-shirt.)?v
If you base your love on how you feel about the other person, then stop the Cupidity now and absorb this truth into your pores. Steam over it. And let the truth set you free. Love, when given God’s way, is better and more lasting than any visceral reaction to your dream girl or guy.
Of course, it would be a potential act of Cupidity for a single person to determine that there need be no sensation of love that comes out of interacting with the future Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. There needs to be some kind of chemistry in order to seal the deal and proceed around the proverbial bases, but once you’ve slid into home (and by that we mean walked down the aisle), how you feel can’t determine how much love you give your spouse. But until you marry, you are free to say, “I’m not in love with you, so I’m walking away.” You just can’t do that once you say, “I do.”
So let’s just say, enjoy the feeling of love when it comes, but know that love doesn’t have to feel good in order to exist. Consider Christ on the cross. Certainly this perfect act of love didn’t give him the amazing feeling that we associate with true love. In Christ’s life, love hurt, to put it mildly. But thank God he knew the hurt that had to be endured in order for love to become available to all of us.
Love demands a lot of us. It demands an end to asking, “What about me?” and requires a search for the answer to “What about the other person? What do they need that I can give?” Anything that doesn’t agree with the way God’s Word defines love needs to be deleted from your memory. Then you’ll be able to start over with a fresh motherboard of love. When you learn to love God’s way, you learn to love without Cupidity, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.