Great Expectations

My name is Mark Smith. I'm a guy who loves Jesus, His Word, and His Church. I am filled with Great Expectations for what the future will ultimately bring - Matthew 24:14.

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Location: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

My favourite verse is Psalm 16:11, my other favourite verse is Acts 20:24, my other favourite verse is Habakkuk 3:17-19, and my other favourite verse is Matthew 24:14.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Love Is Not All You Need

In Counterfeit Gods (The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters) by Timothy Keller, one of his chapters is called “Love Is Not All You Need” and it begins like this:

The human longing for love has always been celebrated in song and story, but in our contemporary culture it has been magnified to an astonishing degree. Musical theatre is filled with many sunny love songs, but some reveal the dark side of this modern quest. In “Being Alive” from the musical Company, a man falls in love with a woman and sings that she will “need me too much...know me too well...pull me up short, and put me through hell.” He insists, nonetheless, that only romance will “give me support for being alive, make me alive.” He must go from one draining relationship to the next, because it is the only way he can feel alive. In the song “Bewitched” a woman admits that the man she’s fallen for is a fool, and will let her down, but, she says, “I’m wild again, a simpering, whimpering child again.” The singers are over-dependent on being in love. Without a romantic relationship of some kind, even the wrong kind, their lives are meaningless.

In the early days of my pastoral ministry, I met a woman named Sally, who’d had the misfortune of being born beautiful. Even in childhood she saw the power she could wield with her physical attractiveness. At first she used her beauty to manipulate others, but eventually others used it to manipulate her. She came to feel that she was powerless and invisible unless some man was in love with her. She could not bear to be alone. As a result, she was willing to remain in relationships with men who were abusive.

Why did she endure such treatment? She had come to look to men for the kind of deep affirmation and acceptance that only god can provide. As a result, she became a slave to love. Nowadays we may hear someone say, “Oh, my boss is a slave master,” but that is only a loose metaphor. Some bosses can make things hard on you, but real slave masters know no boundaries. They can literally do anything they want to you – beat you, rape you, or even kill you. In the same way, we know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries. Making an idol out of work may mean that you work until you ruin your health, or you break laws in order to get ahead. Making an idol out of love may mean allowing the lover to exploit and abuse you, or it may cause terrible blindness to the pathologies in the relationship. An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.

Then at the end of the chapter, Timothy Keller writes:

One day Sally told me how she got her life back. She went to a counsellor who rightly pointed out that she had been looking to men for her identity, for her “salvation.” Instead, the counsellor proposed, she should get a career and become financially independent as a way of building up her self-esteem. The woman agreed wholeheartedly that she needed to stand on her own two feet economically, but she resisted the advice about finding self-esteem. “I was being advised to give up a common female idolatry and take on a common male idolatry,” she said. “But I didn’t want to have my self-worth dependent on career success any more than on men. I wanted to be free.”

How did she do it? She came across Colossians 3, where Saint Paul writes: “You life is hidden with Christ in God...and when Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). She came to realize that neither men nor career nor anything else should be “her life” or identity. What mattered was not what men thought of her, or career success, but what Christ had done for her and how he loved her. So when she saw a man was interested in her, she would silently say in her heart toward him, “You may turn out to be a great guy, and maybe even my husband, but you cannot ever by my life. Only Christ is my life.” When she began to do this, she got her life back. This spiritual discipline gave her the ability to set boundaries and make good choices, and eventually to love a man for himself, and not simply to use men to bolster her self-image.

She answered the question that we all must address in order to live our lives the way we should: Who can I turn to who is so beautiful that he will enable me to escape all counterfeit gods? There is only one answer to this question. As the poet George Herbert wrote, looking at Jesus on the Cross, “Thou art my loveliness, my life, my light, Beauty alone to me.”

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Blogger Steve Finnell said...

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Monday, June 14, 2010 9:38:00 AM  

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