I’m not sure we often view love as a choice. We are raised with a fanciful imagination sweeping us off to places where we will fall helplessly in love with someone else. Based on movies today, one might think that even if the beautiful dame resisted, it would do no good. Clearly, love has seized her and she is powerless in its grip. It is almost as if we expect love to happen to us. We are passive and waiting for the almighty force of love to smack us upside the head. But sometimes it doesn’t.
In the fall of 2003, I moved to the Dominican Republic and entered into a small community of missionaries. Having grown up in a town that barely made the map, I was used to small town ethics. Everybody knows everybody and nobody can do anything without everybody knowing. But in the Dominican Republic, I initially resisted this. I put up a wall and kept a safe distance from everyone. It looked like I loved them, but really, I just co-existed with them. Meanwhile, I waited for love to strike.
But after awhile, I noticed love wasn’t flowing naturally out of me. I knew it wasn’t the fault of the incredible people around me. They were so dear to me and still are. It was my fault. I felt that God had plunked me down in a random village in the Dominican Republic with no choice but to make the best of it. And though it took time, eventually, that’s exactly what I did.
With infrequent electricity, often there was nothing to do except sit around candlelight and talk for hours at a time. It was a simple life, stripped down to the basics, and that left very little pretense. It was through these kinds of bare encounters that I learned that love does not choose us, we choose it.
Similarly, when we look at the first chapter of Ruth, we see that Ruth chose to love Naomi, even when the consequences looked bleak. If Ruth turned back and left Naomi, she would have had an easier time remarrying, which was crucial to a woman’s worth in those times. She was still young. She could have really done something with her life if she had just stayed with her own people … and that is what Naomi urges her to do. But Ruth responded:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me (Ruth 1:16,17).
In Ruth 1:18, we read that Naomi finally realized that Ruth was “determined”. Any lesser love would not have been enough. It took a deliberate, almost stubborn love to prove to Naomi that Ruth was serious about her commitment. Naomi was almost all the family that Ruth had left. Maybe she was not the family member that Ruth would have chosen to love, but Ruth chose to love her anyway.
We have all been put on earth together for a reason, and the difficulty of love is exactly what enables it to be so powerful. When we have no choice about who to love, love becomes harder. Perhaps we need to stop waiting for a feeling of love. The fact is, when we can’t choose the people we love, we choose to love the people we have, and that is a far richer experience. And in doing so, we reflect the love of God, who chose to love us before any of us loved Him.
1 Peter 1:22 says, “… love one another deeply.” This kind of love is not a noun, not an adjective, it’s a verb. It’s a very deliberate action. That is the love of our Father and the love He calls us to have for one another.
Copyright Kim DeHoog. Used by permission.