~I want to thank Andy Stanley for this teaching that I have reshaped for reading purposes as he taught this in a series he did on relationships in his church.~
Love is blind! What a disconcerting comment in a scientific and factual world. I think many of us would rather hear that love is attainable and enjoyed when factor A is added to factor Y ending in a juicy concoction of formulaic love that lasts forever as if it were day 1 every day. The irony that I am learning is that the formula requires mysterious levels of wise blindness that is not raw stupidity nor utter infatuation but is rather an ancient model of love that is best seen in God himself and can be applied to most any relationship that we involve ourselves in, and possibly the closer the person is to us the more effective this model becomes in reproducing the feelings of “the early days”.
1 Corinthians 13:7 is a confusing piece of scripture that is not as self explanatory as much of the rest of this beautiful passage explaining love. It describes love like this; Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Seriously!? Believes all things? How is that even possible? I can understand patience and kindness but how does it believe all things when in fact that sounds a little stupid and naïve to be honest?
A study was done of some married couples; the first group of marriages were of unhappy marriages. The most common problem with them was that they complained that their partner did not understand the other person and hence the marriage was struggling. The obvious assumption of the researchers was that the happy marriages would then say that they all experienced a deep knowledge of the other person and a deep connection of oneness, but in fact this was not the case. Instead the consensus was that these happy couples had in common that they all thought more highly of their partners than even they thought of themselves or was even true of themselves.
In any relationship there will always, undeniably and absolutely be a tension that everyone will have no choice but to deal with. The tension is the gap that is formed between expectation and actual behavior. The underground in London was highly intuitive when they coined the phrase “mind the gap” because it has become a powerful lesson in learning to love.
Let me explain. Every person has a set of expectations of another person, albeit in actions, words or any other thing that happens in life. We expect someone to be friendly in a certain circumstance and instead we get a seeming distance, maybe we expect a person to tidy up after himself but instead he leaves his art materials strewn across the floor when you get home. We expect a warm greeting, instead we get a, well, a greeting. The gap can be large or small in differing circumstances, but inevitably the gap will arise and be evidenced at one stage or another. We will experience a gap between expectation of a person and behavior.
Inside of this gap every person is faced with a choice and this choice is the crux of a healthy and happy relationship with the person that you choose to love. The choices are; believe the best or expect the worst. Believing the best means that when the art wares is strewn across the floor when you get home you choose instead of getting mad to consider reasons for this; he had to rush out and didn’t have time to tidy things, he forgot and is working on this habit, or whatever other hopefilled, trust-filled, response you can come up with. When this happens you create an environment of acceptance for the other person where they know they can trust you and that you believe in and trust them.
On the other side of the spectrum we can in moments where the gap is exposed choose to expect and believe the worst. This happens when we say things like; this is typical, what more could I expect? There you go again, I don’t know why I bother and many other insinuations of negative expectations. When this response is expressed the other person naturally retracts and experiences the pain of disappointing the person they love the most or very dearly. Remember that people do not desire to disappoint the people they love, rather they want to meet their expectations and so when a negative response is incurred the recipient of the response will naturally experience rejection and struggle to trust that they are genuinely loved and appreciated!
The human heart responds best to environments of acceptance and love, where the benefit of the doubt is given. It’s no secret that the message of Jesus is exactly that, that whilst we were and still are by action sinful and unholy people, God sees us as holy and blameless and without sin thanks to the blood of his son and so we experience the precious benefit of the doubt from God that leads us into unparalleled levels of joy and passion for life and even holiness even thought we are nothing in reality like the person that God sees us as. I get the feeling that God regularly has to say to me that I must move out and go for it, even though I am cowering and reminding him of my failures, yet he relentlessly presses towards me with affirmation and worth against even my own experience of myself.
So we must do the same with the person/people we love the most, albeit your spouse, your fiancé, girlfriend or even your friend. We must learn to realize that 1 Cor 13:7 is not a “lala land” expectation but rather a choice to trust and choose to believe the best rather than the worst and when we do that we will enjoy a spaciousness in our relationship that we never could while pessimism and critiques are our way of relating. Let us learn to love with a type of “gospel blindness” so that we are safe spaces to grow and to learn! Let us embark on a journey of personal life generosity as we choose the think the best of people, just as God does of us.