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09.22.2015 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

No. 1 Thing I Learned About Love in Colorado

Sometimes the universe lines up just right and you get to do something really cool with great people. I had that privilege earlier this month when my husband and I were invited to a LoveDefined retreat in Colorado.

Diving deeper into a conversation on love, it seems, can be a life-changing experience.

Here’s why.

When you really stop and think about it, love is the center of everything. Everything good, that is. From a Biblical perspective, God has commanded us to love. We’re asked to love him above all else and to love one another as ourselves.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s really a tall order when you think of the world we live in.

So, on September 8th, four couples from Florida came together in Colorado under the kind and loving tutelage of Tim and Kim Wright to explore how God defines love. Their ten-year quest into this work is based on the principles from 1 Corinthians 13. One of the many underlying premises of this retreat explores how we develop life-long fulfilling relationships.

Love. Defined

Turns out our culture has distorted ideas about love. I’m quite certain I knew this going in, but after four days exploring what we think and know about love, I’m now convinced that my own understanding was seriously limited.

Let me clarify a few things.

The Retreat Is Not a place where . . .

We came together to whine and complain about our marriages
We unnecessarily aired our dirty laundry
We made each other wrong
We came to fix or change one another

Rather, we came together as people with a desire to love more deeply. These eight wonderful, often transparent people, taught me a lot about God’s design for love. One of the things that struck me most was the idea that we can choose love.

Can It Really Be That Simple?

Yes, it can. Simple. But, not necessarily easy.

During our four days together, we unpacked the many elements of love. Everything from our love of cars, shoes, and sports to what it means to love God, our children, our parents, and one another as spouses.

We laughed. We hiked. Played golf. Rode horses. Stared at mountains. Prayed. Shed a tear or two, and visited the oxygen bar in nearby Breckenridge.

Bottom line. The retreat is designed to give those who participate the time and space to relax and think—about the things that really matter.

I learned more than I can unravel in a short post, but the No. 1 thing I learned about love is that, yes, we are designed to love. When we fail to love or be loved, we fill that emptiness with other desires. Those desires are not bad in and of themselves. They’re only wrong when they become our identity. When they separate us from God or hurt other people.

More importantly, when we step outside love—whether it be with an unkind selfish word or an outright act of aggression—we actually choose to place a wedge between ourselves and those we have the potential to fully love.

Our Human Nature and Love

We are designed to love, but it’s also our human nature to create separation. That separation stems from our egocentric desires. I won’t go into the complexities of our discussion, but we talked about those desires as bricks that eventually weigh us down and severe our relationships with one another.

One man in our group drove the point home when he stated that we actually invite those bricks into our relationships. Bricks of separation can look like a lot of things, some of them even good. But, they can eventually distort our sense of love. Ignore those bricks long enough, and they suffocate the relationship.

I was reminded of the movie American Sniper and the scene where character Chris Kyle and his wife Taya are lying side-by-side staring up in anguish. Finally, shifting up onto one elbow, Taya tearfully begs him to stay. No more tours into the battlefield, she pleads.

I’ve seen this movie three times now. Still, I’m struck by the profound reality that something so good as the love of one’s country could morph into a brick in the relationship. Kyle starts out with all the right intentions, but the suffering of war and a broken spirit temporarily separates him from his family.

So it is with the day-to-day moments of life that fester and grow into a brokenness that can no longer be repaired.

The Answer?

I’m not sure I have this love stuff all figured out yet. There’s still plenty of people out there who annoy the heck out of me. The road to love can be challenging.

I do know one thing. It begins with loving God first and foremost. And, if he can love me in all my stupidity, I guess I’d better learn to do the same.

For now, I’m more conscious of the bricks that build up over time and the potential they have to destroy relationships. I’m taking note of the things I think, say, and do and the impact those actions have on others. As always, I’m a work in progress. I’m glad God knows this and loves me anyway.

If you’d like to join in the conversation, I invite you to visit LoveDefined.org to learn more about this journey called love.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. September 22, 2015