[Part Three: House of Bread: To Stay or to Go ]
In the 1960s, the free love movement came into its own. The movement actually began much earlier—societal shifts don’t happen overnight—with the new and improved child care methods of Dr. Benjamin Spock. Just as the empty promises of laundry detergent companies do nothing to improve their products, nor did Dr. Spock’s innovations improve the outcome of children raised under his social experiment. Young people no longer learned that boundaries are a part of life. Instead, they were given free reign to explore their environments, encouraged to follow their natural impulses, and allowed unbridled expression of their emotions. Self-actualization and self-esteem promised them a future of unrestrained individualism and moral liberation. All of this gave birth to the sexual revolution that changed life as we know it in America.
What happens in America, however, doesn’t stay in America. The effects took hold around the world. And today we live with the fall-out—the devaluation of hard work, personal responsibility, marriage, and parenting. Every social statistic invading our news stream screams out that something is terribly wrong, yet we hear the same siren songs calling us to be more tolerant, more inclusive, and more understanding of the very things that eroded the foundations of our culture—the no-fault way of rights and entitlement without responsibility.
A Fork in the Road
Add to this recipe for disaster the Disney effect. Children, especially little girls, tap their screens and drink in the someday-my-prince-will-come philosophy of marital bliss in a never-ending-happily-ever-after world. This leads to the perfect engagement, followed by the perfect wedding, followed by the perfect honeymoon.
And then the dream bubble pops.
A single sinner can live alone and deceive himself until the cows find the condos. Two sinners under the same roof—not so much. And now they come to a fork in the road with two arrows. The “love is a feeling” arrow points toward the broad road to marriage destruction followed by empty relationships followed by cynicism. The “love isn’t a feeling” arrow points down the narrow path to commitment followed by true love followed by blessing.
Notice the word narrow. True love is a narrowing thing. When I commit myself to my spouse, I narrow the field down to one person, no more. Israel was to love the one true God, not the gods of the surrounding nations. Elizabeth Elliot once said that “marriage is the institution for the preservation of love.” In other words, God creates this little fenced in area called covenant promises (marriage) for two people to faithfully live in. Within the confines of that fence, their fragile human love can grow and flourish. Without that covenantal structure, selfishness, distrust, betrayal, insecurity, and a hundred other evils lurk and breed. If I’m always worried that my present “significant other” is going to leave me for someone younger, someone richer, someone more attractive, then love lacks the seedbed from which it can take root and thrive.
I received a phone call from a relative a few years back who told me his son was in the midst of a divorce. When I inquired about the circumstances, he informed me that three months after his son returned from his honeymoon, his new bride asked him what the exit strategy was. Only three months into the marriage and she wanted out—and out she went. We all know the bleak, sobering story that divorce statistics tell us.
The Road Less Traveled
With this ever-present backdrop in mind, how strange the committed words of a bottom-of-the-food-chain Moabite woman sound in our modern ears. Ruth looked the future squarely in the eyes, weighed her two options—one of fullness and the other of emptiness—and chose the road less traveled, the road of hesed.
Clinging to Naomi, who was hoping for a positive response from her “follow your sister-in-law” speech, Ruth opened her heart and expressed in a poetic fashion some of the most beautiful words ever heard by human ears.
Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.
For where you go I will go,
and where you lodge I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die I will die,
and there will I be buried.
May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you (Ruth 1:16-17).
Many of us have heard these words recited at weddings; some of us have them hanging on our walls. They are like music that goes straight to the heart and resonates with something deep within us. We recognize that “something” and are drawn to it like a gravitational well. This is hesed love.
[ Part Five: House of Bread: Defining Hesed ]