Hopeless romantics, enter at your own risk. I am married and a father, and I am more and more convinced that love is not something that you feel but something that you choose. That might make me cold or distant or emotionally challenged, but I believe that a sober-minded choice is far more powerful and loving than any raw feeling, emotional high, or chemical reaction.
For love to be worth anything, it cannot come and go like our other emotions. It cannot be “fallen into” or “fallen out of.” It must be bigger than our feelings and not dependent on our circumstances, so it must be chosen even when it is felt the least.
We live in a world where dating and marriage relationships are in pursuit of this overwhelming feeling of love that makes everything worthwhile and tells you that you are with the right person. We are also inundated with the idea that your children will complete you, and you will fall head over heels with them from the first moment.
In my experience, I have not found either to be the case, and I think that we are setting people up for failure and disappointment by continuing that façade.
It was never love at first sight for Traci and I. It was a choice of circumstance in high school, and then another choice much later on when the first time did not go so well. In both cases, and in all the years after, we have felt joy, happiness, attraction, passion, trust, admiration, compassion, and gratitude.
However, we have also felt anger, annoyance, sadness, worry, fear, and boredom. 1 There is not a feeling of love that overpowers the negative emotions, but there is a conscious decision of love to choose each other despite those emotions.
As we were preparing for London’s arrival, I received some amazing advice from one of our friends and teachers here at G42. He told me not to necessarily expect some magical switch to click on once she was born where I would feel this incredible connection that would change everything and bring completion to my life. 2
I am so thankful for that advice because that was my exact expectation from the stories and ideas that I had seen in the world around me, and I would have been completely lost when it did not happen.
Seeing her for the first time and holding her and watching her grow, I have been full of pride, joy, awe, thankfulness, and so many more wonderful emotions. However, again, as time has gone on those feelings have not been a constant, unconditional wave because there have also been times of exhaustion, stress, helplessness, and frustration.
In addition, there have been a lot of times in the middle where everything is fairly neutral, but the decision to choose her is ever present.
The same friend told me that, as a father, there is little that we can do to connect with a newborn. It feels much like being her servant who is on call with the understanding that she will not provide me anything in return.
Surprise, surprise, that seems to be exactly how we are called to love everyone. We are not called to love people based on a feeling or for a return, but to choose to serve their needs above our own in all and through all.
I want to reiterate that I do not believe that this is a more depressing or worse version of love than the one we get told about every day. In fact, I think it is infinitely more beautiful. If we received some magical feeling of unconditional love when we got married or had children that compelled our every action, it would be the weakest form of love imaginable and maybe not even love at all.
When we choose someone else above ourselves, regardless of how we feel or the circumstances that we find ourselves in, it is the most profound thing that we can offer.
It is the same in our relationship with God. Love is not just a feeling that He has for us. It is who He is, and He expresses it by choosing us, despite the circumstances or what we provide in return. Incredibly, when we come into relationship with Him and receive that love, we do not obtain some mystical, unconditional feeling of love for Him in return. He allows us the even more precious opportunity to choose Him back.