I Still Choose Love



“I love you,” they would murmur, through yeasty breath and sleepy eyes. Some would say it after just a few days, others in the heightened moment of a sexual encounter.

I would soak their words into the hollow crevices of my heart, longing for there to be truth in every intoxicating syllable.

That kind of love was not truth. The love that came and went between university lectures and late night parties was not love. The love that lasted only a few dates … not even.

I craved love and would take it in whatever form it came, no matter how much it spun my moral compass. Because I believed in it. I believed that though this might not be a good or truthful way to receive it, one day love, like the one that might be found on Craigslist, would knock on my door and welcome me with open arms.

One day I would find my soul mate.

It was during those hazy university days that I had a conversation with my step-brother I have never forgotten. At the time he was dating two women, which shocked me, considering neither one was aware of the other. When I asked him if he was going to continue pursuing both women, he said that eventually he would pick one of them, but for now he was having fun.

It seems I was constantly one of those women myself—overlooked, thrown onto the pile with the many others that didn’t have enough acceptable good points. I felt for the two women my brother was dating.

“How will you eventually decide?” I asked. “When you fall in love?”

My romantic ideals always seemed to eclipse reality.

My brother, with a nonchalant shrug, said, “I’ll just pick the one that’s most suited to me. Love is a choice.”

His words astounded me. A choice? Romantic love a choice?

His response stayed with me for nearly twenty years, with my belief system standing strong at a polar opposite. Romantic love, I long believed, is never a choice. Love belongs to cupid’s arrow—it’s the stuff of mystery and poetry. It is the mystical meeting of two souls.

Then I grew up.

I have learned a lot about love in the past year. The breakdown of a marriage will do that to you. You’ll either be left so bruised and broken that you swear you will never love again. Or, you’ll realize the truth about love: that ultimately it is the only choice that saves us.

I have camped out on both ends of the spectrum, one moment licking my wounds and swearing to build a wall so high that love will never hurt me again. In the next, humbling myself before God, knowing that to fence myself off from love is probably the worst thing I can do. Because the minute I put up that wall and choose anger and hurt over love, I also put a wall between myself and God.

When my marriage came to the point where the decision had to be made between separation and reconciliation, my long-established romantic ideals about love yielded the most power. I no longer felt “in love” with my husband after all the hurts that had passed between us. Instead I felt lost, unseen, unappreciated and rejected.

The obvious choice became separation. Staying seemed so hard—there was too much to fix. And if we no longer felt “in love” how could we possibly restore anything good?

I know, I know—God is in the business of restoration. But standing in the rubble of the mess we had made of our marriage, it seemed there were far too many broken pieces for even God to put back together. Love had long burned away, and with it all desire to even pray for restoration.

But a battle within me raged. After 14 years and two children, did it matter whether we felt “in love” at that moment or not? Was that really the point?

This is my new struggle. Love has become the globe I am trying to study from all perspectives. What does it look like from the North, where winds are cold and feelings are gone? And the South, when all is sunny and warm but love has yet to be tested? What does it look like from the East, where the complex layers of daily living push and pull at my emotions and my ability to give? And the West, where responsibility and promises lay shadows of guilt at my feet?

Love from so many perspectives is complex. And yet, it can be so very simple. God’s love and the way He wants me to love, is as simple as it gets.

When my brother talked about love as a choice all those years ago, I found his perspective sad and lacking in romance. Now, as I look again from a more mature perspective, I see veins of truth in his words. Perhaps in choosing love no matter what, the feelings of being “in love” will eventually follow.

When being “in love” is gone and relationships look hard and painful, love is the choice I have the ability to make. In the midst of pain, anger and hurt, love is the choice I have the privilege of making. In any given moment, this is God’s gift to me.