“Is love a feeling or a decision?”
I put the question to my high school Old Testament students during a fall semester. The discussion is spirited. The questions they discover as they think critically are good ones. If love is a feeling, what happens if the feeling goes away? If love is a decision, how is there any romance in that? Is there such a thing as “falling in love”? If so, can you “fall out of love”? If love is a decision, what happens when someone changes their mind?
To encourage them to keep thinking at a deep level, I hand them an article by an author who argues that love is a decision. When everyone finishes reading, the debate continues, this time with more vigor.
“M” sits quietly. A smart, lovely girl, she stares at the pages. When the rest of the class stops talking to take a breath she declares in a no-nonsense voice, “I don’t buy it.”
“What don’t you buy?”
“That love is a decision. It has to be a feeling.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I just do. It has to be a feeling.”
“Ok, let’s walk that through to the end. If it’s a feeling, can feelings change?”
“Well, sure they can.”
“So if love is a feeling, what happens when your spouse doesn’t “feel” it anymore? Then what?”
“I get that. But love has to be a feeling. It can’t be a decision.”
“But you just admitted the potential problem when feelings change.”
Pushing the article back across the table, M sits back in her chair, crosses her arms and says, “I know. But it’s got to be a feeling. There’s no way love can be a decision.”
Our conversation is saved, or ended, by the bell. Class is over.
Late in the spring semester, the topic pops up again. I am pleased with how much my students recall and how some of them have formed even more intelligent opinions on the topic. Several take the opportunity to espouse the “love is a decision” position, stating the logic that supports their belief.
M sits quietly, staring at the floor, taking it all in. I wonder if she will again take the counter-point. Lifting her head, she fairly shouts.
“Mr. Thompson! Love has to be a feeling! It can’t be a decision! It just can’t!”
Tears pour from her beautiful eyes, splashing onto her open notebook.
“Because, Mr. T, …what if…
“…what if no one chooses me?”
The first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning God…” God, the eternal, self-existent, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present, never changing, holy, sovereign God. The God Who is also self-complete. Meaning he lacks nothing and is perfectly delighted with the completeness of Himself. This God, Who needs nothing, created human beings, male and female in His image (Genesis 1:27).
To the question, “Why would the God who needs nothing create us?” there is only one answer.
He wants us.
We want to be wanted. To be chosen. To be chosen is to be validated. To be validated is to be ascribed worth.
Every kid in gym class holds his or her breath during the picking of teams. We want to be chosen. Because to be chosen is to be validated. Standing there in shorts and sneakers, the best feeling isn’t to be chosen first. The best feeling is not to be last. Because if we are last, we are no longer chosen. We are only what’s left over. We are what the team is stuck with.
In the beginning, the God who needs nothing created men and women in His own image. He chose us. Further, He put time and forethought into our lives, writing down all our days in His book before there was yet one of them. By divine definition, our lives are a book written by the hand of God (Psalm 139). Each day opens a new page of plans and purpose, full of adventure. Long before Dr. Seuss came along, it was God with pen in hand who smiled and first said of us, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”
Love is a decision. We love because God loved us first.
My prayer for M is that she knows she is loved by her Creator. She is chosen.
Somewhere in God’s book there is a page where she will be chosen again. This time by the man God has for her to walk through life with.
Oh, the places they will go!
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
– Psalm 139:16
Todd A. Thompson – toddthompson.net