The Mystery of Matchmaking

I want to share with you the transcript of BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day” from 4 January, presented by Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer:

The Advertising Standards Authority, the ASA, has just banned an online dating agency from claiming it has a scientifically proven matchmaking system. In an advert headlined “Step aside, fate, it’s time science had a go at love,” the dating service claimed to be able to decode the mystery of compatibility and chemistry, so that you don’t have to. The ASA said that there’s no proof that those who use the service were more likely to find lasting love than those who didn’t, and ruled that the advert was misleading.

Matchmaking is a tough business. The Talmud relates how a Roman matron once asked a rabbi how God occupies His time. “He’s busy pairing couples,” answered the rabbi. “Seriously?” scoffed the matron. “Anyone can pair couples. I’ve got a thousand male slaves and a thousand female slaves and I’ll show you how easy it is to pair them up.” “It might seem easy to you,” replied the rabbi, “but I can assure you it is as difficult as splitting the Red Sea.” The matron paired up her slaves, but the following morning she was inundated with complaints from the misaligned and unhappy couples. “You’re right,” she confessed to the rabbi, “I had no idea how difficult matchmaking could be.”

That even God should find matchmaking taxing indicates that when it comes to matters of the heart there is no simple algorithm. Sometimes all the externals match up, and yet that elusive element we call chemistry, is absent. Other times we can’t figure out how an apparently grossly misaligned couple find themselves deeply in love. No algorithm can account for that.

Furthermore, traditional matchmakers recognise that achieving a compatible match is only the first step towards an enduring relationship, requiring much effort on the part of the couple to achieve love. The Bible, in describing Isaac’s courtship with Rebekah, states that he “brought her home, took her as a wife, and loved her.” The sequence makes it clear that in the Bible, love is not the prerequisite for marriage, but rather, it’s successful outcome.

Love is not static. You don’t fall in love with someone, and remain perpetually in that state. As anyone in a long term relationship knows, love is hard work. The root of the Hebrew word for love, ahava, is hav which means “to give.” Falling in love is something that happens to us, but being in love is the result of an active process in which we continually give of ourselves to our beloved. And it is in giving and sharing that we discover just how deep our capacity for love can really be.

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Choose Love

Would it make any sense for me to command you to do something that is out of your control? What if I commanded you to be pulled to the earth by gravity? What if I commanded you to breathe? What if I commanded you to stop breathing? That’s something you could manage for a short while, but your body would soon protest and override your efforts.

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:34-35)

Jesus is commanding His disciples – including us – to love one another. He knows that this is a choice we have to make. Sometimes, when you think about some of your fellow Christians, it’s a difficult decision. When we start looking at people the way God does, it becomes easier.

He made that statement near the end of his life. Earlier He made an even more challenging one.

‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:43-45)

It’s a very basic fact that everything we do that counts for anything is down to our choices. Even in circumstances that are beyond our control we choose how to respond.

However much anger we feel about what someone has done to another human being – or to ourselves – we can choose to respond with love. Let the legal system do its part in determining guilt and punishment. Our response is above the law.

However helpless we feel about the state of the world and the desperate plight that people find themselves in, we can choose to respond with love. Insignificant as it may seem in our own eyes or the eyes of the world, our response is hugely significant in the eyes of God.

So love is beyond feelings, and not to be confused or affected by them. This is true in marriage too. Feelings and physical attraction can be strong, and an emotional bond feels powerful, but feelings can be fickle and emotions can turn like the wind. We all hope that our feelings will at least remain strong, and perhaps grow even stronger over the course of a marriage. But our feelings are out of our control. That includes our feelings for others as well as our spouse. This is why Paul commands:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Love is a choice that in marriage becomes a commitment. It is deeper and more satisfying than any emotion, and as much as warm emotions can sweeten the relationship, love does not depend on them.

I am divorced. I married based solely on feelings, and negative self-centered feelings at that. I didn’t know Christ at that time, and I didn’t know love. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I hope that one day I will be able to make that choice and commitment to someone capable of making the same commitment to me. I thank God for teaching me, through Jesus Christ, what it means to choose love.

My husband is not my soul mate.

I’ve been slow to pick up on this post, which apparently took the Internet by storm last year, but having just read it, and finding it so in tune with the way I believe God views us and our choices, I felt compelled to ‘reblog’…

http://theartinlife.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/my-husband-is-not-my-soul-mate/

A Thought on the Subject of Sex and Marriage

Sex outside marriage is like dessert without a main course. It can be delicious and sweet and oh so tempting, but the satisfaction it gives won’t last, because you’re missing all the essential nourishment that the main meal provides.

Overindulge in pudding and it will make you sick. Do so without thought for a balanced diet and it might even kill you.

And isn’t the dining experience so much more rewarding when the dishes are served in the correct order?

Feeling Low

In this article I’m going to be deliberately vague. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. Why? Three main reasons, in no particular order:

  1. To protect my own privacy. I don’t think it’s wise for anyone to lay bare the full details of their private life to the world. It’s no secret that I’m a sinner, because we all are. My own sins may be viewed by the world as greater or lesser than anyone else’s. What I consider to be sin in my life may be viewed as nothing of the kind by others, and the reverse is also possibly true. Small groups and close Christian friends provide the outlets for detailed discussion, confession and repentance.
  2. To protect the privacy of others. Do I need to explain this? The people closest to me, or those involved in whatever situation I write about, may well recognise incidents and individuals. Some might even feel offended or exposed that I’ve publicised something about them. But I will always be careful not to reveal personally identifiable information about anyone I know in this blog. If I speak on public matters then I’ll try to use wisdom and discernment. If I make any mistakes along the way, I trust you to let me know.
  3. Ultimately I should be able to refer to issues broadly and vaguely without losing sight of the meaning behind them. And by keeping to generalities rather than specifics I hope that more people will see parallels with their own lives, their owns journeys, their own struggles – and in that way we can encourage and support one another.

So… I’m feeling low.

I expect that nearly all of us have experienced the pain of rejection. It’s just one those things we have to go through at some time in our lives. I’ve been through it several times in mine – well I’ve been around for over 40 years so I can’t be too surprised at that. But I went through it again this week and it hit me hard. I don’t know if it feels different because it’s the first time I’ve really been through it since I found Christ.

It isn’t the only thing that I’m going through. My other issues are less usual, but equally difficult. All I can say is that I’ve got a lot of painful situations all going on together, and I’m really struggling to come to terms with them all.

And that’s where my head was when I went to church on Sunday, and I wept as I worshipped, and then some of Jesus’ words came to me and I didn’t understand exactly why.

Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” – Luke 9:46-48

I can honestly say that I have no desire at all to be great, either on earth or in heaven. I have no interest in status, or in fame or fortune. I’d like to think that I’ll make a positive difference in some people’s lives, and I wonder if one day I may make a bigger impact for God, but my satisfaction will be in knowing in my heart I did well, not in any external recognition.

So in theory, to be least is just fine with me, just fine.

In theory.

But I broke down inside at that moment, because it suddenly felt as if I was not even least, but I was nobody. And as little as it matters if I’m ‘nothing’ to ‘everybody’, I have such a need to be ‘something’ to ‘somebody’. And not just ‘something’, but something significant.

I’m not alone, I have family and friends, and I know I mean something to them, but it isn’t enough.

I’ve heard on more than one occasion that God is enough. That we can find complete fulfillment in our relationship with Christ. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s a Biblical viewpoint either. Read Genesis, and notice that everything God sees in His creation is good, or very good. What is the first thing he sees that is not good? In Genesis 2:18…

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Some people can live a successful single life, Paul wrote about it in 1 Corinthians 7, but that isn’t my gift.

I need to make clear at this point that I wasn’t just yearning for a wife on Sunday. I had an overwhelming vision of myself as servant to everyone; putting everyone’s needs before my own; wanting to talk to my spiritual brothers but not wanting to interrupt them, because I don’t matter as much as the people they’re already talking to; not wanting to be in the conversation I was in, but unable to extricate myself from it because the person who was speaking to me was more important than I was.

That isn’t the real me, well not the whole of me. Yes I try to put other people first most of the time, but I certainly have a selfish side as well and it manifests itself more often than I’d like.

But at that moment I was small, I was insignificant, I was nothing.

There have been some times in my life – and I think this is also something that many Christians experience – when I have been acutely aware of my insignificance as an individual, but at the same time I have felt God’s love for me, and been overcome by the awesome wonder that the Creator of the universe knows me intimately and cares for me deeply. Those moments are among the most amazing of my life.

On Sunday I still knew of God’s love for me, but I couldn’t feel it. I still don’t feel it now, so I’m still struggling, but I know it’s there. I think I’ve just allowed the temporary troubles of life to take over my mind and flood my heart with sadness. God hasn’t gone anywhere, but I’ve shut myself off from Him.

I need to reconnect with Him. I need to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. I need to keep praising His holy name because he has been so good to me. I don’t need to keep feeling low. I need to lift up the name of Jesus, knowing that He will in turn lift me.