I love fried chicken.
I LOVE IT.
I would eat fried chicken from just about any restaurant that sold it. In truth, when we go to a new restaurant that I’ve never been too before, I usually order some form of fried chicken just to be safe, because I know it will be good.
As much as I LOVE fried chicken, though, I get tired of it if I eat it too much or too often. I mean, it’s good and all, but once in awhile you just want pizza or a burger or salad, right? I just lose that warm fuzzy feeling of eating fried chicken, and so I move on to a different food, something that gives me that spark, that hits the oh-so-hard-to-find spot.
And that, my friends, is the reason that America’s divorce rate is soaring.
People get married because they’re in LOVE, but they “love” this other person the way they “love” fried chicken. It makes them FEEL good, it’s exciting, it’s comforting. But it’s just a feeling, a feeling that goes away when they’ve had too much of their spouse and they want the feeling back the only way they know how: go get it from someone else. Go eat pizza or a salad, that should mix things up and bring some spice back to life.
I hear people tell me that they have trust issues, quite often. Most of the time these issues are justified in some way. They were taken advantage of, used, abused by someone in a position that should have been trustworthy and comforting but instead was manipulative and hurtful. And granted, that all makes sense. But it seems that people treat trust like it’s a feeling too. That trust just sort of happens when you meet the right person, that when you feel happy and positive with this person, then trust shows up and you’ll have it forever. People treat faith the same way. It’s easy to have faith because the conditions are all right. Everything is good, life is good, so it’s easy for me to have faith. It just sort of happens because I’m feeling good! That’s what faith, trust, hope and love are all about right? Feelings? Just warm fuzzy words written on a blurry background and posted to Facebook or Instagram, that shows everyone how much trust or faith I have.
But what about when the circumstances aren’t so great?
What about when your spouse cheats on you? When your significant other stoops into a depression and every day they just seem like a dead weight dragging you down?
What about when you lose your job? When your kid gets very sick and it’s costing a fortune in medical bills to get them better?
Love, faith, hope, and trust are eternal, right? They last through all these situations and are EASY, right?
Sure. If they were easy, then we wouldn’t have so many suicides, so many broken homes, so many empty churches. But hey, they’re just feelings, so they’ll swing back when I improve my circumstances! All I need to do is get more money, lose some weight, get a new job, be more charming, etc etc etc, and then I’ll bring back those butterflies that are the DEFINITION of love!
This viewpoint, this attitude, is what drags us down and breaks us apart. Thinking that love is simply a feeling, that trust just happens with the right person, that hope or faith are easy because of what I see in front of me, is why relationships and families fall apart, why people leave the church, why people give up on life. It’s this adolescent fantasy, this dream that these 4 things are going to be easy, and all you need are the right circumstances to make them happen, that keeps us from growing up and taking responsibility.
I’ve been watching Dexter a lot lately. It’s an interesting show, to say the least. This may contain spoilers, but I will try to keep them vague. Dexter is about a man who is a serial killer, but he only kills people who deserve to die, who fit a certain Code. These people are rapists and murderers. Dexter feels this need to kill, which started at a young age when he witnessed his mother brutally murdered. Ever since then he’s felt what he describes as an uncontrollable force inside him that tells him to kill, and the only way he can control it and remain a good person is to kill the ones who deserve it. Very late in the season, he encounters a man who is setting people on fire. He does this because when he was a kid his friend set a gym on fire and killed several children and then blamed him for it. He blames this experience as the reason why he does what he does. Following is a transcript of the scene where Dexter is about to kill him (edited for language)
Dexter Morgan: So, he still talks to you. This Bobby… the one who tells you to set these fires?
Joseph Jansen: No. That would make me crazy. AND I’M NOT ******* CRAZY! But I only hurt people because of Bobby.
Dexter Morgan: No. You’re the one who’s setting those fires. You’re the one whose burning people alive. You can’t blame it on something that happened to you when you were a kid. You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time for you to take responsibility…
Dexter then realizes what he’s just said. He has blamed his urges on something that happened when he was young, and always said that the urges were uncontrollable, a different being, almost like a demon inside of him that took over his body. He comes to realize that these urges really are just feelings, and though they are strong, they can be controlled. He realizes that he and ONLY he is responsible for the choices he has made.
It was while watching this episode that I began to think about trust and love. It is so easy to think of these things as just feelings, but they are so much MORE than that. They are an ATTITUDE, a COMMITMENT, a RESOLUTION. If they were easy, they would not have the impact that they do on our lives. If they were easy, they would be cheap, and worthless. If love was easy, then God’s choice to let Jesus die, and Jesus’ choice to be sacrificed, was easy, and cheap, and worthless.
Yet another show I watched that I thought of while pondering all of this was Lost. This show is by far my favorite show of all time. No show ever had as big of an impact or resonated so deeply with me. Two characters, Jack and Locke, are often at odds with each other. Both had traumatic losses and hurt before arriving on the island, and both were still learning to cope with it. However, they chose to deal with these experiences very differently. Jack became a cynic and a skeptic, demanding tangible proof for everything before making any decisions. Locke became a man of faith, trusting that the universe or some higher power had a purpose for everything. He believes in fate and destiny. Both are born leaders, but the direction they would lead the group is very different. This difference in attitude comes to a head in the following scene. Watch the whole thing to gain a little context.
Why do you find it so hard to believe?
Why do you find it so easy?
IT’S NEVER BEEN EASY.
Faith, love, hope, trust, are not supposed to be easy. They aren’t whimsical feelings, blown about by the breeze and tossed by the waves whichever direction they might be going. Faith is a boat turning itself directly towards the storm, towards the giant waves that threaten to topple it unless it is faced head on. Trust is petting a grizzly bear at the zoo that is known to bite it’s handlers at times. Hope is climbing down a dangerous ravine because you’re dying of thirst and can hear water running somewhere but can’t see it. And, to loosely quote Death Cab, love is watching someone you love die. Oh, sometimes they will feel easier, the choice will be easier to make because you already feel good inside and the circumstances are right. But in those times, feelings will become 90% of your decision making, and the attitude of love or faith will take a backseat. When things fall apart and happiness (the feeling, don’t confuse with Joy, an attitude) is no longer in the equation, choosing to love someone may be harder, it may not FEEL right.
These things DON’T MAKE SENSE in a rational world. In a world that only “trusts” feelings, “trusts” physical measurable and quantifiable evidence, it makes no sense to continue loving a spouse that is brain dead and can offer nothing in return. It makes no sense to go to China and live with the poor when you have riches at home. The action of love makes no sense in a world where survival of the fittest is the ruler by which everything is measured, the ruler the world bows down to. But love is indeed an action. It is an active movement, not a passive thought. Love is a choice we have to make each day, regardless of how we are feeling.
No one likes to feel like they’ve been used. No one wants to be made a fool, to feel like our choices blew up in our face. Part of growing up is realizing that sometimes we won’t get what we want out of our decisions, but that does not mean that our decisions were foolish. Sometimes we are used, we are manipulated, we are let down. This should never keep us from being willing to trust, love, hope, or believe. We temper these choices with wisdom, with being able to look into a situation and realize the intent of a person, but we should never give a soft heart over to cynicism and cold calculation. When we let our hearts become hard, we stop making our choices for selfless reasons. Everything we do starts becoming about only ourselves and what we can gain, rather than what we can give. ‘
Love is like a diet. Sometimes, it might not be fun. We might not get to eat KFC all the time, we might have to eat broccoli. We might have to give up snacks. But it isn’t about what we feel like eating in the moment anymore, it’s about the long term benefits of what we choose to eat. We commit to diets, or to working out, to change ourselves for the better, even if at times we just want to eat fried chicken and pizza and sit on the couch. We choose to persist through hard times, choose to trust even if our trust has been broken, to love when we don’t like, to hope when we can’t see the end, and to have faith against the odds.
I choose to love, even though it’s been hard. I choose to hope, even though my feelings of “hope” aren’t with me, when the big feeling I’ve been having lately is sadness and loneliness. I have faith that everything will be ok, though I often feel that my life is falling apart. I choose to do these things, because if I didn’t choose to, I would give up.
When we start treating these as attitudes and choices that can be made despite our ever-changing feelings, we can begin to heal our broken world, to crack through our hard hearts. I leave you with a wonderful scene from The Matrix: Revolutions, one that is filled with Biblical symbolism.