What Can I Do To Make You Love Me?
So 26 září 2015
I cannot stop the angelic voice of Andrea Corr singing in my head her song “What Can I Do”. Verses “What can I do to make you love me? // What can I do to make you care?” got me stuck in the seemingly endless loop. The feeling is so persistent that I started to contemplate what I should understand my head to be telling me. Given that I have been happily married for almost twenty years I don’t think I should take this song too literally for myself. Also rather obvious was my first reaction; “to make you love me”? That does sound awfully manipulative and thus not very much as the faith-filled solution.
The song is very simple with a very simple (and perhaps because of that so beautiful) melody and similarly simple story: a lady is in love with a man but her love is not reciprocated and so she cannot sleep in the night and she is tormented by these questions. Her heart aches, she feels trapped in her feelings, and she is desperately looking for an answer.
Many “good Christians” would consider the feelings themselves wrong or even sinful. After all, the ideal image of the marriage is preserved for us in Genesis 2:22: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” God will bring a woman to a man and so the right marriage is just a matter of faith and obedience and falling in love doesn’t have any place in the heart of a faithful Christian. Is this perhaps the right answer for the lady’s heart? Just confess those feelings as a sin, repent, and trust the Lord!
The wisdom of this world revealed to us in almost all movies, TV shows, songs, and elsewhere is the exact opposite. Feelings of love are something which most closely resembles the secular variant of the voice of God: we have to follow them in order to achieve the true love (which is as close as you can get to the concept of salvation in the secular philosophy), and there is nothing which can stand against this call, because resistance to it is the root of all evil. This secular mysticism of following our feelings gets a bit more complicated with other feelings. What to do with our feeling of hate, envy, or sorrow, when we want to be “honest to our feelings” as the phrase goes?
I remember a discussion with one young friend who was in a similar situation as the lady in the song. He is hopelessly in love with a girl, but she doesn’t reciprocate the love to him. What did I understand from his talk that he obviously didn’t want to force his feelings on her (“to make her love him”), but he was stuck with the unrequited feelings of love in his heart and he didn’t know what to do. I felt from him a little bit of guilt that he cannot control his emotions.
I was thinking about a moment in my life when I was in a similar situation. I had asked out a girl and I had understood her answer as refusing me. I felt as my duty not to bother her anymore, but still I was struggling in the same manner as this guy with all those feelings for my lady I had which I could not get rid off. Actually, how we are supposed to control our feelings? I can, and I should, control my decisions and deeds, I should not let my feelings control my decisions, but how to get rid of the feelings themselves? I don’t know about that.
I prayed about this and after a long time I believe the answer was something like: you are right, you cannot control your feelings, and you shouldn’t. There are those moments in our lives when we are supposed to live in the discomfort (or even pain) of unanswered questions. Feelings are signs of the things going on deeper in our hearts and one of the ways how to get in touch with them. We could, and we should, keep our decisions right (so, in my case, I was sure I really shouldn’t bother the lady of my heart with the unwelcome attention; whether I was right in being mostly passive is another question, but that isn’t the point now). Feelings should make us to query whether our attitudes are right; so in my case I went once again to the place where I was able to proclaim to the God that I want not mine but God’s will to happen (Luke 22:42). For somebody else the issue could be forgiveness or asking for it. However, even though we may be in the right place with our hearts, even though we may not sin with our feelings controlling our decisions, there is still no guarantee that the pain will go away.
Many times Bible calls true believers as “those who wait for the Lord". Let us see for example Isaiah 40:31 (ESV):
[…] they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
This promise is not a universal promise for every believer. It is only for those who wait for the Lord. It seems we must be willing to wait, to suffer an amount of pain from the unresolved situation, to be able to gain from this promise.
Presence of painful feelings doesn’t mean that our attitudes or deeds are sinful. There are many alternatives and we shouldn’t be too quick to exclude anyone of them. In this case of the unrequited love, it may be that the guy is really wrong and he just needs to wait until the Lord heals his wounded heart, and perhaps helps him to recover trust in God in places where he didn’t trust him before (which will probably require some amount of repentance). However, of course, there are other variants. Any relationship, and especially the love between man and woman, is the work of two, and it is very much possible that the lady is wrong in this case and the guy needs to wait for the change of her heart (or perhaps even help her to achieve such change?). Or perhaps they need to live through the time of purification of their hearts before they are prepared for their love to start in purity. Or perhaps some other circumstances need to change for their acquittance to start well. Or … there are just so many possible situations we cannot control. And if we are in the situation of somebody who is asked for help, there are so many situations that we cannot give good advice for. Of course, even for advisers it is a question of their pain of uncertainty whether the other person finds the right answer to their questions.
We all need to pray and wait for the Lord to come.