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WORLDVIEW: Love first, understand later

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
EDITOR'S NOTE: Visit "WorldView Conversation," the blog related to this column, at

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RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Take comfort, guys, if you can't always figure out what your special someone wants on Valentine's Day -- or any other day, for that matter.

You are not alone.

Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is one of the smartest guys in the world. He contemplates stuff like cosmic string theory, gravitational singularity and the density matrix of the universe. Yet when he was asked in a recent interview what he thinks about most often, he replied, "Women. They are a complete mystery."

Tell me about it, Steve. A lot of men don't have the guts to admit that, but we're thinking it. Women, likewise, struggle to find their way through the bewildering (to them) maze of the male psyche.

A former missionary speaking to a group of men about improving their relationships with their spouses compared the mental and emotional differences between the sexes to the chasms missionaries must cross to reach other cultures. If anything, that underestimates the challenges men and women face in understanding each other.

I've been married for nearly 28 years to a wonderful Korean woman. Sometimes people ask us if coming from different cultures makes communication more difficult. Occasionally, yes. But my wife and I agree on one thing: Compared to the light years separating planets Male and Female, the culture gap is a hop, skip and a jump.

Let's be thankful, then, that love does not always require understanding. Love requires love. And time.

"I will love you if I understand you" is conditional, like every other "if" qualifier. God's love sets no conditions. Love first; understanding will come. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. That's why marriage is hard. So is real friendship -- with anyone, regardless of gender. We are worlds unto ourselves until we choose to cross the chasm toward another.


In a crucial sense, the same applies to our relationship with the Lord. Christ crossed a huge chasm indeed to love us. No questions asked. Our reasonable service of worship is to love Him back with our whole hearts. But we can never fully understand Him in this life. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have been fully known," the Apostle Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 13:12, NASB).

Until we know God as He knows us, we must trust and obey. His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, yet His heart is fully available to us if we love Him. The church is the bride of Christ, but Psalm 25 tells us that the "secret" -- or intimacy -- of the Lord is reserved for those who truly seek Him (verse 14).

Seeking God takes time and quiet. We also can practice our love for Him by loving one another. But true intimacy is hard to find in the age of rush. And rushing has become a global disease.

"I'm a speed walker," writes an IMB worker in Eastern Europe. "Hurry is my everyday tempo -- hurry here, hurry there, hurry, hurry, hurry. But today, stopped me dead in my tracks. With a small, withered old hand lifted, reaching, beseeching me. I almost dashed past it. Almost. In my mad scurry to my next destination, I was nearly past her before my heart caught up with my legs and made me stop.

"She was old, gray, disheveled, feeble. She stood there on the sidewalk, a doll-print sack hanging from one arm, lifting her hand to me and murmuring 'Young lady?' so quietly that I almost didn't hear her. I thought for a second that she was a beggar. I realized that the little hand she was raising was not cupped upward to receive money, but reaching for me, for help. As this fact and her voice reached my brain, I came back to her. She pointed at the icy sidewalk and the curb before her, mumbling out a request for help to cross the unmanageable terrain.


"'Of course,' I responded, reaching for her hand. Oh, that old, gnarled hand in mine. ... And to think I almost missed this. I almost missed the chance to love Him by helping a dear, aged soul cross an icy street. Just in front of me, other people had pushed right past that helpless woman, disregarding her as if she was no more than a dried husk of a thing.... I almost rushed past the King of Glory on the side of the road. Praise Him that His quiet voice reached my ears and my heart. I don't want to miss Him."

I call that a Valentine card from God. Have you received one without noticing it?

Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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