FOUR TRENDS AND THE TRUTH
Our church’s young adult ministry is full of single professionals – urban folk who gather on a weekly basis on Friday evenings. Through the years, the topic of dating and relationships has far eclipsed all other concerns and issues. If there ever was any question that these young and urban class were asking, its not “How can I be saved?” or “What is my purpose in this life?” although these are certainly up on the list.
The question that was most asked, all-time, was this:
“What is Love?”
For most millennials, we have a smorgasbord on the definitions of love depending on what has been told you, what you have experienced, what you have read about, or even as plain as what you have felt.
On top of that, mix in a view of love and relationships based on what culture and society dictate and you have more or less a very vague and indistinguishable outlook on love.
The results are inevitable: individuals develop expectations that are not met, compromises ensue, and people are left alone and lonely, hurt and hurting.
Having served in ministry for a couple of years, I see that most if not all have been through past relationships that are abusive, oppressive, selfish, directionless, ambiguous, worldly, ungodly, and adrift.
This article strives to provide solace, comfort, and healing for those who have been hurt bad and for those who have had their hearts broken. Moreover, my aim is to show what love and relationships are meant to be—not on what society and culture deem—but based on who love and relationships are created by and sourced from: God himself (1 John 4:8).
The Four Trends
The following are what I have observed to be the current trends on love proliferated in mainstream culture. Although there may be more trends out there, these are the ones that I find most common:
There is this new idealism that is present in twenty and thirty-somethings that purvey a grandiose expectation of what a perfect relationship is and how to find a perfect mate; most of the people here are stuck in wandering around (as if in a desert, parched and traveling in search of an oasis) and wondering about their future partner (who will come and whisk them away from the desert of singleness and live happily ever after).
Typical symptoms of the ‘Mirage’ are excessive daydreaming and in extremes, hallucinations on reality (kidding of course!).
I will stop at this point and tell you now that the perfect mate DOES NOT EXIST.
We all have our own shortcomings, imperfections, and flaws so much so that we cannot expect a potential spouse to have it all; there is no such person. If ever this person truly existed, he or she would totally only subsist within the confines of your own imagination and optimistic thought-mongering on the perfect one. I apologize for the slight reality check.
This so called ‘Mirage’ eventually leads to the second trend:
The ‘Merry-AGE’ Of Old
The new idealism eventually and simultaneously leads to a new pessimism about love and relationships.
Because individuals have such high and twisted expectations, they will succumb to reality sooner or later that disappoints them and discourages them from any sort of companionship.
There is sort of a counter-reaction that ensues after and all of a sudden, love and relationships are seen as traditional and outdated because they don’t ‘workout’ anyway.
The inevitable result is flawed views of looking for and choosing a spouse: one of which is the “hook-up” culture that is developed as one trying to “test the waters” with a potential partner and it’s more cousin, the faux-commitment of cohabitation or “living-in” to see whether there would be a good result or chemistry to work out.
This sort of arrangement and view on relationships puts one foot into the union with the other foot outside the door, with packed bags, and ready-to-go just in case the stuff hits the fan and a breakup begins or it just doesn’t work out. It is a false sense of commitment because there can be no such thing when there is a back-up plan or contingency.
The polar opposite of the “Merry-AGE of old” is the one wanting it all. This trend then assumes that love and relationships have become an enterprise, a fulfillment to be achieved, a life goal that is to be had:
This one directly comes from the individualistic view of partnership. It basically says “what can you give me for what I can give you”.
In this trend, selfishness and self-centeredness are thriving because being in a loving relationship is seen as a personal life goal or a fulfillment of the self to strive for. This is what culture exonerates because to be in a relationship is to be fulfilling your highest potential and self-worth.
Rather than being about self-sacrifice and how one is able to serve the other one, the tables are turned and reveals the heart of every person to be served instead of having the heart to serve others.
This is in fact, a sad reality nowadays that we have people whose sole motive is to please themselves, “ITS ALL ABOUT WHAT MAKES ONE HAPPY, ANYWAYS”, they retort.
As if these three trends aren’t enough, we are again bombarded with this last one. This trend soon follows after the “ME-rriage” of which results, when people are scorned from all of the selfishness and self-centeredness:
People who are in this trend are, sometimes without knowing it, secretly bitter or unforgiving because they have hurt people or people have hurt them deeply.
There is much to a scorned, depressed, and repressive person who came from a relationship that did not end well but still wants to hope for the best. This leads to extremes on both sides of the pro-marriage and the anti-marriage spectrum.
a) The former, being pro-marriage, especially ‘hoping’ people who fit the spousal criteria that they have made (what I call the ‘Negotialists’ who form extravagant wish-lists of their spouse-to-be and won’t budge if they don’t get what they asked for or if they don’t pass their requirements).
b) The latter being recluse from any and all activities leading to a marriage for fear or distrust of the marriage union, typically individuals who have been hurt bad or burned in their past relationships (what I call the ‘Guard-Your-Heart Movement’ who espouse an extreme ascetic stature towards courtship and dating and are closed off to any possibility of a relationship).
The Reason for the Season
Have you found yourself in any of the above-mentioned trends? It is important to be real honest with yourself and to check your heart whether you are in fact locked into one or more of those trends but it is equally important to see it as a way to move forward in the quest of finding and understanding what real love is meant to be.
No matter what trend you are currently in or what predicament you find yourself, don’t despair. THERE IS HOPE!
As Timothy Keller in his book The Meaning of Marriage, states:
“Single People of today need a brutally realistic yet glorious vision of what marriage is and can be—a marriage according to the Bible.”
First and foremost, the original design of God for love and relationship is really centered on marriage, a covenant between two persons, male and female, becoming one in a mysterious union of body, soul, mind, and spirit. It stands and is founded on a commitment by both individuals to love and serve one another despite their imperfections, flaws, and shortcomings.
“The Bible starts with a wedding (Adam & Eve in the book of Genesis) and ends with a wedding (Christ and His bride—the Church, in the book of Revelation).”
Let us start in the first book, when God was creating the universe. On the sixth day, this is what God did:
“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
All this to say one main point: Men and Women are both made in the image and likeness of God. We are created EQUAL but DIFFERENT. This has much to say about how we relate to the opposite gender with the same dignity, respect, and love for who they are as a person of worth.
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him.”
God Himself said, after everything that He created and deemed good, that it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone (this was even before the fall of man through sin).
There is created in us, a very real desire for fellowship, friendship, companionship, relationship, and community. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God (A triune God who has perfect fellowship with Himself—Father, Son, Holy Spirit), there is also that deep yearning and longing for relationship that we have ingrained in all of us.
God then took a rib from the man, closest to the man’s heart (some commentaries say)—not as a symbol of any lesser creation but one of a God-designed mystical union: that man would have woman by his side, in and through anything.
God then ‘brought her to the man’—note that the extra-biblical command that men are to be pursuers and women the waiters is just guidance but not an actual command seen anywhere in scripture.
This leads me to say that men can pursue and also women can pursue BUT just in a different way; one example of which is how men can initiate and how women can make themselves available in the context of dating or getting to know someone better.
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Sex was enjoyed without shame within the tenets of a marriage covenant sealed by God; many of us are plagued with the shame from our past broken relationships, even the brokenness that lies deep within us. Still, the marriage designed by God has a deeper meaning in that they were able to bear all to each other without any reservations—they gave all of themselves to each other because their marriage was entrusted to them by God.
They were in total security because they knew that their relationship was to be permanent, secure, and maintained by God.
The Truth of the Matter
I want you to see that the very first marriage was given as a gift by God, instituted by Him, and presided by Him. The Bible says that the two shall “become one flesh”, or be joined together in “oneness”. The underlying principle is that God plays the most crucial role in our relationships—not us.
When we really seek love and relationships, we seek it only in and through Him. When we focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), He gives a partner, a helper, a friend, a lover who can come alongside of you and walk with you—that is HIMSELF—Jesus Christ.
“Love without truth is sentimentality;
it supports and affirms but keeps us in denial about our flaws.
Truth without love is harshness.”
Love and Truth are found only in and embodied by Jesus who alone sheds light on the truth of our depravity and loves us to the point of the cross. Jesus with us is really a picture of the perfect marriage (Ephesians 5:32), one that is so painful and wonderful at the same time because it is a reflection of the Gospel.
“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
That is the perfect love and relationship that you will ever get to receive and it lasts for all eternity. Anyone else in this life for that matter, is a gracious bonus.
Writer’s Bio: Mike is first and foremost a slave of the Lord Jesus—redeemed as a wretched sinner by grace—and called as a wordsmith, speaker, visionary, and creativist for His Church. You may follow more of his Blog athttp://thetub-thumper.blogspot.com/
Resources: The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller