When Alice slips through the looking glass and encounters Humpty Dumpty in that strange land, she’s quite confused by him. She can never figure out what he means because he uses a word in so many different ways. When she complains about it, he defends himself: "When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."* Humpty’s response is a non-answer:
When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra.**
When it comes to love, we certainly force one word to mean a lot of things. Our simple English language has a single word for love. We love our parents. We love the hot guy who walks by, even if we don’t know his name. And we love a cute little orphaned child we meet on a mission trip. We might even love Fluffernutter sandwiches. We stretch one word to encompass the full range of love the average person will experience.
But other languages are more complex and precise. They identify the specific kind of love being expressed in each relationship. Take Hebrew for example. We hesed our parents. We ahabah the hot guy walking by. We raham the orphan. (And there’s actually not a term to describe your love for a sandwich.)
Stretching and twisting the word love into so many meanings make us vulnerable to the Humpty Dumpty Syndrome. I meet with girls day after day who "fell" in love and thought the guy fell with them, but he’s gone and now they’re shattered.
Ahabah (pronounced "AH-ha-vah") is the Hebrew word that might be used to describe two people falling in love. This "love" is characterized by a spontaneous, impulsive display of affection and attraction. We find in the Bible a few stories of people who fell in love (ahabah). A lot, actually.
Hamor the Hivite fell in love with Dinah. The Bible says, "He was deeply attracted to Dinah … and he loved (ahabah) the girl and spoke tenderly to her" (Gen. 34:3 nasb). He ended up raping her, which prompted her brothers to seek revenge and start a war with the Hivites.
Samson fell in love (ahabah) with a hot chick named Delilah. She fell in love with the idea of having power over him. He ended up trapped by her, stripped of his gifting from God, and eventually dead.
David fell in love (ahabah) with a powerful heiress named Michal. Their attraction was short lived, and she grew distant. Eventually, she hated him. At one of David’s most exciting moments as king—when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem—she mocked him in front of the entire household. He ended up in an empty, hate-filled marriage.
Jacob fell in love (ahabah) with Rachel. Many Bible scholars agree that Rachel wasn’t the woman God wanted him to marry, but Jacob could not control his attraction. It’s possible that he was meant to marry her sister, which he did. But he wanted Rachel so badly that he served as an indentured slave for fourteen years to earn the right to have her. Then he was caught up in the dysfunction of two wives who were sisters, not to mention their maids, who were also his sexual partners—very complicated. The dysfunction carried on with his sons, who were constantly creating drama. Jacob ended up in a life filled with sadness and conflict.
I could go on.
Bottom line: Bad things always happened when people in the Bible fell in love. Perhaps the worst consequence was the fact that ahabah diminished over time.
What advice does the Bible give specifically about falling in love? Glad you asked. It says this:
I adjure you … that you not stir up or awaken love (ahabah) until it pleases (Song of Songs 2:7).
In other words, "Please don’t fall in love."
This verse has been a tad misused by the abstinence movement; I don’t think it is actually about avoiding sexual expression until marriage. The words are repeated three times in Song of Songs, including verse 8:4, long after Solomon and his bride are wed and have consummated their love. What could have prompted this obvious challenge to hold back even after marriage? Because the Creator knows our hearts weren’t designed to withstand the impact of such a fall.
I think the point of the verse is this—don’t ever let attraction (ahabah) grow stronger than agape (chosen love rooted in one source alone: God).
If you’re a girl who is prone to fall in love, maybe it’s time to fast from guys to feast on God’s love. Only when you are fulfilled by His love will be you capable of expressing agape love in a relationship with a guy.
How can you know if you need to do such a thing? That’s easy. If you’re boy crazy, you do. If you’re already God crazy, you don’t.
Are you boy crazy or God crazy?
This blog entry is based on content from Get Lost: A Girl’s Guide To True Love by Dannah Gresh to be released in April 2013.
* Carroll L. 1965, Through The Looking Glass, New York: Random House (Original Work published 1865), page 46.
** Carroll L. 1965, Through The Looking Glass, New York: Random House (Original Work published 1865), page 95.