Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday Special: Charity and Romance

Yes, I know, "Sunday Specials" should probably be posted on Sunday, but...I fell asleep. Here it is.

In yesterday's post, "LOVE:  the "M" Word,"  we briefly talked about mature love in terms of relationships.  In that post, I say this:
[F]or a marriage relationship to be successful, perhaps one could infer that a couple must share a common foundation, direction, and priority for such a love [as President Kimball describes] to come to pass. Such deep, abiding, joyful love does not just "happen."  It is an extension of charity-- the pure love of Christ. 
That begs the questions:  
What is charity? 
And what does it have to do with romance?

Let's crack open the sealed portion of our Bible, everyone. That's right--it's Bible Dictionary time!

The Bible Dictionary
"Study like a scholar, scholar."
Here's what it says-- 
Charity. The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive (1 Cor. 8:113:1–4, 81314:1. Cf.Moro. 7:47). 

Alright, there we have it-- a simple, but powerful, definition of charity. Notice, it is not talking about deeds or organizations, even those prompted by love.  This definition speaks of love itself--the highest, the noblest, the strongest kind of love.

...That sounds a lot like the kind of love needed to support a marriage and family life...
Great. Three minutes of writing, and we've already answered our two big concept questions. 
That was easy!

Well, as Princess Mia puts it in the recently-aired-on-Disney-Channel (don't judge) rom-com, Princess Diaries 2,
 " The concept IS grasped!  The execution is--a little--elusive..."

Story of our lives, Mia.  Story of our lives.
The fact of the matter is, knowing what charity is doesn't grant it to us.  We ask "Great. I know I need 'mature love' for this marriage thing to work out.  I know I need charity as the best foundation for a mature romance.  So?  How do I get from Point A to Point B?"

Moroni answers this question by teaching us to "pray unto the Father with all energy of heart," so that we can be "filled with this love, which he [Heavenly Father] hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ." (Moroni 7:48; emphasis added).  As Sheri Dew teaches in her book, If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard, charity is something that is given to us--any and all of us--as we ask for it with all energy of our hearts. As we go through our lives, we can be granted greater measures of charity as we ask for it. 

Sometimes the challenge comes in not fully understanding what it is we are asking for. Perhaps it is good to clarify what charity is NOT:  Charity is not an emotion.  It's not happy-warm-fuzzy feelings for someone who annoys us or someone who injured us in some way. Charity is not an action or a good deed. It is not something that we feel, do, say, or think.  Charity is who the Savior is.Charity is part of what makes Christ God. When we pray to have charity, we are not asking for the symptoms of the natural man [or woman] to be removed (help me give to the poor, help me not be jealous of that one girl/guy, help me not yell at my fiance, help me act nicer to my students).  We are asking instead that our very natures be changed--that the natural man itself is transformed in us, that our dispositions and characters be closer to the Savior's. As this metamorphosis occurs, we literally can feel as the Savior feels, and thus, do what He would do. 

In the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul states that of faith, hope, and charity, "the greatest of these is charity." (1 Cor. 13:13)  Sheri Dew expounds further with this thought:

The implications of [Paul's] declaration are spiritually staggering. Could charity possibly be greater than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Or greater than hope in the Atonement? Or greater than hope for happiness in this life or hope for a better world and a place at the right hand of God [see Ether 12:4]? Yes, because charity defines who and what we are seeking to become. Charity defines the nature of godliness. (Dew, If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard, 58)

She continues with a thought that really ties this back into the "mature love" issue that we were talking about. She says it better than I can, so I will continue with another excerpt: 

Charity changes us. It transforms us. It is as a healing balm. When we plead with all the energy of our hearts to be filled with the pure love of Christ, the increasing, continual bestowal of charity not only changes our natures, it heals us from the emotional and other wounds created by the buffetings we experience in this lone and dreary world--wounds such as insecurity and jealousy, resentment and fear, a propensity for anger and an unforgiving heart.  The healing power of charity, bestowed by our Father and made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, can make it virtually impossible for us to even feel emotions common to the natural man. (ibid, 55-59; emphases added)

It is in this passage that the connection between romance and charity is clearly illustrated.  What Dew suggests here as wounds of the world also appear in Noller's characteristics of immature love--damagers and plagues to happy, successful romance and marriage. Thus, as we pray for and receive true charity, we grow in our capacity to love each other and continue building our happily-ever-after. 
  INSERT VOICE OVER (Kronk's voice, Emperor's New Groove):  
Oh, yeah.  It's all comin' together.

I feel personally inadequate to expound too much on this subject on my own; thus, this post is filled with quotes from others possessing greater ethos than myself.  I will end with yet another, a little long--this one from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. 
He describes his feeling when, while reviewing his day in evening prayer, he realizes how often he has committed "...some sin against charity.  I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to mind is that the provocation against me was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself....On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for the sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth....If there were rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am....And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do--if, indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are--then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about....I cannot, by direct, moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise  that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.  (Mere Christianity, 164-165; emphases added)
As we established before: charity is a bestowal from Heavenly Father to all those who choose to follow his Son, Jesus Christ. Ask we pray fervently for this change of heart, the Lord can bless us with this gift that holds with it the key to successful families.

Dew, If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard, and Other Reassuring Truths
LDS Scriptures
Lewis, Mere Christianity
Alright, stay tuned for our next post, where we move forward into G. Levinger's Relational Alphabet.

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