So yesterday I got through half my thought. To recap, Glennon Doyle Melton recently announced on Facebook that in the wake of finally separating from her husband, she entered into a romantic relationship with another woman. Yesterday I began to answer the question What is love? Insisting, rather lamely, now that I go back and look at it, that self love is not really “love” in a true sense. But in this brave new world self love is the hope and the dream.
Of course, I’ve used the word “love” without really defining it. So let me do that now.
Love in our modern context means something like having powerful lovely feelings for something, someone, or oneself.
Love, however, in a biblical context is the verb used to articulate the nature of God who is One in Being, but Three in Person. God Is Love because the Father eternally pours himself out for the Son who eternally pours himself out for the Father. And so also the Spirit. The three live in a perfect unity of the giving of the self without holding anything back. That is a very different thing than, “what the world needs — in order to grow, in order to relax, in order to find peace, in order to become brave — is to watch one woman at a time live her truth without asking for permission or offering explanation.” Glennon’s articulated self love, so usefully insulated from the world’s criticism, being grounded solely in the rebellious and sin poisoned human soul is of necessity narrow and hard.
Whereas God’s love gives life to the world. As I like to say to my Sunday school children about Jesus, “He didn’t hold anything back from you. He gave his whole life, down to the last drop of blood. Not a single bit of who he was did he guard or keep away from you. How else can we talk about his body being something that we eat, his blood something that we drink?” This is the basis upon which any human being can give anything to any other human being.
If you are busy loving yourself you can only take, you can only demand. And so let’s look at what is demanded of the children in this picture. “They have the love and support of their dad, me, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their church, their teachers, their friends’ families –all of whom have fallen as hard for Abby as they have. They’re lucky kids, to be surrounded by so much love. We have family dinners together – all six of us — and Abby cooks. (She is an AMAZING chef because Jesus loves me). We go to the kids’ school parties together. We are a modern, beautiful family. Our children are loved. So loved. And because of all of that love, they are brave.”Glennon is claiming a multiplication of love. Look, more people to love you. Me, your dad, his new person, my person, your grandparents. We are all here together with love. And we go to the parties together and everyone is completely happy.
And yet, because this has been a business of taking for the self, rather than self giving through death, there cannot really be happiness, in the ultimate sense. I would put cash down that these children have been cut to the heart by the father’s betrayal of the mother, and now the mother’s of the father.
Why? Because marriage is a picture of Christ and his Church. Jesus, who lived in the perfection of self giving love in the Godhead as the eternal Son, set that aside to come and gather us back into that perfect love. He set aside glory and honor and beauty to come and die as the ultimate act of Love. He gained, in his death, a bride, the church. Every marriage is a shadowy retelling of the triumph of the cross. And so each time a marriage fails, that retelling is spoiled. And the whole world feels it, knows it at the core, however much we may lie and say it is good. And the people who know it most are the children, the product of that troubled retelling. Multiplying “love” when something so essential is broken is not really “love”.
Really what the children have learned is that father can’t keep his promises and mother can’t keep hers. Each time a promise is broken “love” apparently abounds. Whereas, that’s just not true. Every time a promise is broken the love that Christ has for his church is lied about. And lying doesn’t really produce happiness. It produces misery and anger.
If lying produced happiness, humanity would be peachy happy and love love love. But we are liars by nature, determined to call good evil and evil good. And observe the roiling anger, the bitterness, the unbending intolerance of individual people for other individual people, the racism, the violence. Where is all the happiness? Where is all the love? It isn’t in the hard defiant gaze of Glennon Doyle Melton. It isn’t in the collective heart of a culture that hates God and loves the self.
As I implored yesterday, prayer is of the essence. But also Christians should cling tightly to the surpassing love of God that sets aside the self, dies to the self, abandons the self, holds nothing in reserve to grasp onto the one who is perishing. His blood and love is sufficient for every grief, every brokenness, every lie.