Some of the world is abuzz about the wacky goings-on on The Bachelor. Bachelor Clayton told Gabby, Rachel, and Susie that he loved them. He was “intimate” with Gabby and Rachel. Just as he was expecting the evening with Susie to go in the same direction, Susie asked him what he’d been up to with the two other women. He confessed.
Susie had been falling in love with Clayton. But, when she heard what he said to (and did with) Gabby and Rachel, she determined that Clayton wasn’t the man for her. If he truly loved her—she reasoned—he wouldn’t have said and done what he did.
On Clayton’s search for love, he and all three women experienced pain that could have been avoided. Here’s how I believe Clayton missed the love boat and ended up on a dinghy that left a wildly disproportionate wake of destruction. A lot can be learned about the God who is Love.
Clayton’s 1st Mistake: Living in the Moment
Stephen Stills wrote the lyrics “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” Clayton seemed to live by this philosophy. His words and actions appeared to hold some degree of sincerity. Over and over, he said he was just expressing what he was feeling in the moment.
It seems that Clayton also subscribes to the popular philosophy of living in the moment. That message is everywhere. While we certainly can find value in being fully present (not distracted) and taking advantage of each moment, the philosophy can go off the rails if consequences are of no concern. Clayton’s “moments” resulted in a lot of pain for a lot of people because he failed to think about the next moment.
Sometimes God works through miracles. But, the vast majority of the time, God works through principles. One of those principles is that you reap what you sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest.”
Clayton’s 2nd Mistake: Regarding Love as a Feeling & a Selfish Desire
It seems that Clayton used the word “love” to refer to his feelings about these three women and his experiences with them. He felt good around them. He was attracted to them. He wanted to be with them. I believe that he cared about them to some extent, but the way he treated them indicated that he wasn’t terribly concerned about their well-being. To him, “I love you” equated to “I want you.”
Clayton is certainly not unique in this way. These days, feelings and experiences are paramount, and they increasingly exist without the counterbalance of facts and reason. To compound problems, selfish desires are fiercely defended. Who are you to get in the way of what I want?! I’m living my truth and my story!
Now, imagine a rapidly spinning wheel. The spokes are feelings and experiences (separated from facts and reason) and selfish desires. Toss a wet ravioli noodle into the spokes, and you’ll get a sense of what happens to the concept of love when it gets mixed up in this whirling chaos.
So, what is love if it isn’t feelings, experiences, and selfish desires? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not envious or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Once again, the Bible provides timeless wisdom. From beginning to end, it shows us how love is unselfish, giving, and sacrificial. Those who regard love as a feeling or a selfish desire are treating the ocean like a bird bath.
Clayton’s 3rd Mistake: Failing to Grasp Marital Love
It’s extremely helpful to recognize three types of love:
- Compassion for people you don’t personally know
- Caring for friends and family
- Love for a spouse
The first two types are unrestricted. You could have compassion for every person in the world. You could love both of your parents, all of your children, and some of your friends.
The third type of love is beautifully different. It’s singular. It’s exclusive. By nature, you can have marital love for only one person at a time. This is why marriage vows include the forsaking of all others.
When Clayton expressed love for each woman, they understandably believed he meant marital love. They each felt special. They each believed that they were “the one.” Something innate makes us believe and desire that. When each woman found out that Clayton expressed love to the others, they understandably felt betrayed. It hurt deeply.
(This week I got an email from Sam’s Club telling me that I’ve been chosen to receive an exclusive offer worth $90. I don’t think I have to tell you why it didn’t make me feel as special at they had hoped it would.)
Marital love is special and beautiful. There’s a good reason why the Bible compares humanity’s relationship with God to a marriage union. Not in the sense of “Jesus is my boyfriend” (He actually wants us to have human boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives). The comparison is in the sense that it’s singular. It’s exclusive. That’s why He’s a zealous God. That’s why He doesn’t want us to put anyone else before Him. He knows that pursuing any other “god” will destroy us.
Marital love, by nature, involves an undivided heart. After the initial fallout from Clayton’s blundering, a lightbulb came on for him. He realized that, if Susie had his heart, his heart couldn’t possibly belong to anyone else. I truly hope that his understanding and experience deepens.
A Fool for Love?
Spoiler Alert: At least for now, Susie is choosing to be in a relationship with Clayton. Many people find it hard to believe that she has taken him back. How can she trust him after the way he treated her and the other women? Time will tell.
Perhaps Susie’s a fool. Maybe she just truly loves Clayton. Perhaps it’s like the story of Hosea in the Bible, which illustrates how God takes us back after we’ve betrayed Him. But, that’s a story for another time. For now, let’s just wish everyone well as they—and we—strive to find love, true love.