By Cally Logan, Crosswalk.com
In a culture where love is often defined by romantic movies, social media posts, and surface-level contexts it can be hard to uncover what real love is.
Often, what is defined as love is in reality obsession. Obsession with the other person, obsession with how things appear, or obsession for the silver screen relationship. The feeling can be so powerful that we mistake it for being in love.
God is love, so to properly understand what it means to truly love someone, we must go to Love Himself.
Back to Basics: Eden
In all of human history there has only ever been one marriage that was perfect for a time, and that was between Adam and Eve before the Fall in the Garden of Eden.
The world was without sin or flaw, and during the time before sin entered the world their marriage and love was pure. Looking at their story before the Fall can give us a glimpse into what was really love, not lust and not obsession.
Genesis shares how God placed Adam into a deep sleep and when he awoke God presented before him quite literally the woman of his dreams. His reaction is so sincerely authentic as he gasps, “At last.” Adam was the sole human on the face of the planet, yet when he saw his wife before him he instantly knew her role on this earth.
Perhaps it was from studying the animals with their mates, or perhaps it was an inner peace that overwhelmed his senses enough to utter relief that finally he had a mate.
He was not obsessed with her, he did not gawk or begin to worship her. He loved her without shame we are told, and he became one with her.
What we can draw from this period of perfection in marriage is authenticity. It is not idolizing your significant other, but it is loving without borders.
Adam loved his wife because he knew God made her perfect as she was. He did not seek to change her, nor did he seek to let his relationship with God take a back seat.
It is clear that God was Adam’s everything before Eve, yet God sensed a loneliness in Adam. Granting Adam a wife did not make Adam leave God. Together Adam and Eve loved God as their everything.
Sin does occur later on, but the sin was disobeying God’s order and not trusting God, it was not ignoring or walking away from God in relationship.
Obsession will occupy thoughts, intentions, and focus away from God, but love incorporates praising God for all that the other person is. Adam praised God in how He made Eve, he did not praise Eve as his god.
In the same way, are you praising God the more as you praise your significant other, or are you so focused on them God is forgotten? Ask God to help reveal to you what Eden’s beginnings can teach you about your relationship.
What Is Love?
It has become the most common verse printed on the programs of weddings, but it makes the words it expresses no less true when we read what the Bible defines as love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 expresses, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
When it is broken down and closely examined, not merely skimmed, God’s heart is vividly seen.
Love is placing someone else before yourself, just as God did in sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us. Love does not hurry the other person, it does not forcefully self-seek for selfish ambition, for kindness is vital.
Jealously, envy, pride, and self-interest does not find a home within love. Cutting someone down, tallies of failures, and anger cannot thrive. Love is counter from obsession for obsession seeks to control. It welcomes jealousy, ego, and pride.
If you are unsure where you may fall in the love or obsession category with another person, place your name or their name in the place of, “love” in this verse.
Invite the Holy Spirit to assist you to navigate truth and move forward in allowing genuine love to persevere.
What Is Obsession?
Obsession is rooted in self-gratification. The adoration given towards the other person is contingent upon how that person lives in the desire of the beholder.
It works almost like a leech sucking up life from a host, but only if the host has what the leech is craving.
Obsession very rarely is one that is intentional, but it is something that must be acknowledged and placed into correct form. It opens the door widely to other sins that leave relationships lop-sided, toxic, and in ruin.
It can often be mistaken for love, but if love is truly putting someone else first and seeing them through the definition of Love Itself, which is God, then only then can what you have pass the test. Are you loving through and by and in the lens of God, or are you finding your fondness for another based upon your definitions of them, how they function, and your perspectives of them?
It is not to condemn, but it is to reveal clarity of what the bond truly is.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Cassidy Rowell
Love through God or through Flesh
Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored different forms of love through his book, Life Together. In the text, he explains one can love another through Spirit, or through humanly flesh.
It sounds black and white with the potential for much gray space, but he is right. Bonhoeffer explains, “Human love is directed to the other person for his own sake, spiritual love loves him for Christ's sake. Therefore, human love seeks direct contact with the other person; it loves him not as a free person but as one whom it binds to itself. It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule.”
This connects with the idea of true love versus obsession. When we love someone as we ought, we are loving them through connection with Christ. The lens in which we perceive them and the way in which we love them must go through Christ Himself.
This does not permit becoming a pushover, in fact it invites the Holy Spirit into the relationship so we may love them and love them fully. We then see them as Christ sees them, and perhaps will see the relationship change so that it is in order with God’s Will and intent from the first place.
When we obsess in the human filter of things we place them in a position that we seek to control and rule. If they do as we wish, our affections will grow. If they do not comply or act in such a way as we would hope, our hopes will become dashed and anger will bubble up to a boil.
Obsession is a selfish form of passion, one that is dependent on how someone performs, acts, or lives. It is there often lust will enter into a relationship for it becomes a breeding ground for the desires of the flesh to cloud judgment and cloud the lens of seeing the other person in the proper perspective of a flawed human being who is ardently loved and cherished by God.
The World’s Input
It is easy to fall prey to the ways of the world especially in the way of what is perceived as love.
Competitions of who received the greatest box of chocolates or flowers on Valentine’s Day turns actually showing kindness to a cherished one into consumerism and comparisons. Watching other’s relationships from the windows of social media give false perspectives of unattainable perfections.
Even the movies and shows heralded to the masses prize looks, fame, or marketability as love. That is not to categorize every bit of media as bad, but it is to snap us out of the overwhelming feeling that love must look picture perfect at all times.
Obsession couples itself with counterfeit looks often. Do not let the world’s standards define what is real and raw and true. Your relationship does not need to look like the silver screen, it does not require hundreds of likes on Instagram, and it is not proven true by measures of culture.
What matters most remains between you, God, and your partner.
How to Repair
Realizing a connection is more along the lines of obsession rather than love can be a very difficult pill to swallow. It requires recognizing the plank in your own eye, but it is there that the true healing can come.
Come before the Lord in sincere honesty. He already knows, and it is His heart to be Jehovah Rapha, God of Healing. Ask Him to help guide you in truth and understanding of what it looks like to repair, to change outlooks, and to bring proper balance.
Implore Him to help you love correctly and open your heart to be loved properly as well. Proper love between two people requires loving God first and most to love the other best.
As CS Lewis wisely stated, “To love you as I should, I must worship God as Creator. When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
It is not hopeless, God can bring all into proper balance His way.
There is a fine line between love and obsession for they often can be confused with one another. When we are honest with ourselves, with God, and with the person we have feelings for it ushers in a freedom. Freedom to see things for what they are, and what they can be in proper union with God.
This freedom is what Adam and Eve shared in having no shame before one another and before God before the Fall in their marriage, and it is the heart of the Lord to help you experience that as well.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/NelliSyr
Cally Logan is an author and US History teacher from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys leading a high school girls’ small group, cooking, and spending time in tree houses. Her latest books, Dear Young Sparrow and Unveiled are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. Check her out on Instagram and Twitter, @CallyLogan.