As an attached guy in my final year in university … I met a girl.
We were both part of the same project group for a particular module. Something about her attracted me — she had an easy smile and was conscientious in her work. Even though we were all busy as final year students with research projects and thesis writing, she voluntarily put in more effort to spruce up our group’s presentation slides.
And in conversations during lunch meetings with our project group, I found out that she regularly goes on mission trips to serve children. “What a great Christian girl!” I thought. My heart was being drawn to her.
But I was already in a relationship — one that was fast approaching the two-year mark. I did think of my girlfriend as a “great Christian girl” too, but it seemed like things had worsened over the course of our relationship.
We were too busy with school work to properly plan for dates, so going out sometimes felt like an established routine. I had doubts about her love for me, which led me to subconsciously withhold my affections. To be honest, we were uncertain if things would work out between us. I felt frustrated and disheartened.
I thought, “If we were to break up, we should do it sooner than later.” After all, we gave this relationship a shot for two years! Breaking up promptly would save us from being entangled in an even longer relationship and the embarrassment that would come with breaking up then.
A covetous heart — as I had entertained thoughts of being together with someone else — is rooted in adultery.
I gradually found myself entertaining ideas of getting together with this newfound friend. She seemed to have a few qualities I found lacking in my girlfriend. “Maybe, if we got together, we would be a more loving couple,” I mused. I talked to her more and started building an image in my mind of how our lives would turn out — loving each other and serving the Lord.
I wasn’t far along this line of thought when the Holy Spirit tore through the fog of my daydream. He revealed to me that my heart was self-centred and covetous. One Bible teacher defines coveting as a “selfish desire, which is willing to gain at the expense of others.” Thinking this way, I was inclining myself towards sacrificing my current relationship for something that seemed better.
And as I allowed myself to be occupied with the mental fantasies, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my wandering mind.
By prioritising my personal comfort above that of anything else, I had chosen the easy way out.
The prospect of working through the issues in our relationship felt too daunting. Rather than working towards a solution, escaping the problems by initiating a breakup seemed to be the most straightforward option.
Unknowingly, I had adopted a consumeristic mindset towards relationships — attain as much love as possible by paying the lowest cost.
So when issues arose and a better “option” came along, I was quick to jump at it. I wanted the benefits of a relationship without really working for it. I didn’t even know this other girl very well, only superficially!
I was appalled at how quickly I contemplated ending my current relationship in the hopes of exchanging it for a “better” one.
Instead of cradling love in my heart, I was found with unlove — the opposite of Paul’s exposition on love in 1 Corinthians 13. I was confronted by how impatient, unkind, and self-seeking I was. Indeed, “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).
Deep down, I knew I had to deal with my heart. A covetous heart — as I had entertained thoughts of being together with someone else — is rooted in adultery. James said that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 ESV).
If I didn’t deal with this root of adultery immediately, who knows what its fully-grown fruit would look like in marriage? It might have brought death to a marital covenant! I asked God for His grace to search my heart and shine His light on any malignant desire, and committed to uproot them as His Spirit enables me to.
In order to snuff out any carnal yearnings, I chose to shut my mind to all other “options” — I decided to be devoted to the one I love.
The Beloved in the Song of Songs declares his devotion in this way: “Even among…countless young women, I would still choose [you,] my dove, my perfect one” (Song of Solomon 6:8-9 NLT). True love is loyal, faithful and steadfast. My love paled in comparison. God was teaching me to be persistent in my love and faithful in my commitment. I had to arrest my wandering mind and learn to commit fully to a relationship.
Moreover, I had to correct my dysfunctional approach to dealing with conflicts and tensions in a relationship. Instead of naïvely sweeping messes and mistakes under the carpet, I had to learn how to intentionally create a safe space for dialogue and to choose the right time to address issues as a couple. I found that gentleness was the balm that brought healing to our souls.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
Squabbles and disagreements are inevitable in relationships. Yet through it all, God calls husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). This is a supremely high calling! While human love is often weak and imperfect, the good news is that our love is perfected when we abide with God (1 John 4:16-17). It is in first receiving the love of God in our quiet moments that enables us to love unwaveringly.
Without Christ as an example, it is impossible to place our partner above ourselves. A devoted heart and a steadfast mind are the foundations of a loving and strong relationship. A strong marriage is also built on the exact same foundations.
If you are holding onto a sliver of unlove in your heart, I urge you to allow the Spirit’s light to illuminate every corner of it. The Lord searches our hearts and examines our secret motives (Jeremiah 17:10) — only He can purify our intents and motivations.
As we weed out the invisible seeds of unfaithfulness, our affections for our partner are sure to grow — just like how Christ loves His precious bride.
This article was first published on selah.sg, and is republished with permission.