True Love’s Kiss

Maleficent-true-loves-kissNot necessarily a chick flick! This is a random, jumbled musing after I finally watched Maleficent, which was thoroughly satisfying. It reminded me of Frozen. These two very touching movies centered on the theme of love, which is NOT of the chick flick variety. Sorry for spoilers! Both films required a TRUE LOVE to reverse a curse of irreversible sleep in Maleficent and being permanently frozen ice in Frozen. Isn’t this the gospel? (I also recently watched The Fault in Our Stars, which is an entertaining non-cheesy tear jerking well done chick flick.)

Desiring true love. Both movies were wildly popular and successful. Maleficent became Angelina Jolie’s most successful movie financially. Frozen surpassed Toy Story 3 as the most financially successful animated movie worldwide, primarily on account of it being the #1 movie in Japan for 16 consecutive weeks!–unheard of in today’s world where movies are being churned out all year round. Don’t we humans desire true love more than anything else in the world?

Depression and substance abuse. The recent celebrity suicides (Robin Williams, age 63) and drug overdoses (Philip Seymour Hoffman, age 46) were related to depression and substance abuse. These tragedies scream to the world that all the fame, wealth, success and popularity cannot quench, fulfill or satisfy the human heart. Depression is a debilitating and devastating health issue that always needs to be seriously addressed, since it afflicts countless millions throughout the world. But will one who knows and experiences true love remain depressed and inconsolable indefinitely? A notable Christian plagued with depression and several attempted suicides occurred with the famous hymn writer William Cowper (1731-1800).

Can’t live without true love. I first experienced true love when God, by his mercy and grace alone (Eph 2:8-9), miraculously brought forth my mystical conversion in 1980. This drastic miraculous initial transformation of my heart and mind, which I can never ever forget, is ongoing to this very day. It’s like I cannot ever imagine living without Christ even for a moment. It is because God’s love for me never changes (Jer 31:3; Heb 13:8), and because Christ gave himself for me (Gal 2:20) and filled me with the fruit of love (Gal 5:22).

Wired for true love. Growing up, I knew unconditional love from my parents, who had never hurt or traumatized me even once. Sadly, as a spoilt kid, I often took their love for granted. After my conversion, I experienced romantic love through my dear wife, who feels more precious to me than my own life, even when she is graciously annoying at times. (I know that it is mostly my fault, even if it is hard to admit it!) Nothing in this world has continued to influence me positively as much as my “marriage by faith” in 1981. I also experienced much love from my four kids, three grand-kids, my extended family, my friends, my church, and even from my three cats! Last week I felt so devastated when I had to relinquish my oldest cat of 13 years, my favorite. She fell off the porch on the second floor, broke her hind leg and could not walk. Now my remaining two cats comfort me from losing her. Truly, we humans are wired for love.

How might you articulate your experience of true love?


  1. “But will one who knows and experiences true love remain depressed and inconsolable indefinitely?”

    Hi dad, the problem with phrasing this question like this is I think it can contribute to the shame that Christians who suffer from depression already experience. I had this vague idea growing up in ubf that if someone has a mental illness of any kind it is a sin problem. They are “demon possessed.” This is not what you’re saying in the article, but I think it’s important to discuss. This is a really unhealthy and unhelpful view of mental illnesses, many which can be as real of an illness as a physical illness like cancer. I remember hearing about ubf people who committed suicide, and then it was never discussed.

    Interesting excerpt from a Christianity Today article on this topic. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this topic.

    “”In some Asian populations, we know there are not even words for therapy or suicide,” said Kristee Haggins, senior associate at the California Institute for Mental Health and one of a dozen or so exhibitors. Unwillingness and/or the inability to access care are common barriers across cultures, said Haggins. But there is an added layer of resistance among some ethnic groups. Members of these groups may prefer to access non-psychological resources and services, like church and spirituality, she told CT.

    “…one-third of Americans and roughly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, and born-again Christians say that with prayer and Bible study alone, sufferers can overcome serious mental illness, a September 2013 LifeWay Research survey found.

    “”From my standpoint, the stigma that affects the members of the congregation is exactly the same stigma that affects any group of people,” said Pitman at the press briefing.

    “”People don’t want to admit to having a mental illness, because we all know what it looks like. It’s either a psychopathic killer or somebody sitting in a corner, staring vacant-eyed and drooling…. That’s not what it looks like. It looks like the people in this room,” he said.”

    • I fully agree that to shame or demonize someone who is depressed or has mental health issues is unloving, lacking in compassion and understanding, and does a great disservice to them. Yes, churches, including ubf, have sadly and simplistically taught erroneously that “Jesus and Bible study will solve your depression (or any other problem, for that matter).”

    • forestsfailyou

      I have heard this exact sentiment about mental illness by a Korean PhD student. I remember hearing someone mention she should consider therapy and she became very angry for the reasons you mention above. People who don’t have psychiatric degrees shouldn’t diagnose or undiagnos illness.

    • forestsfailyou

      Sorry, perhaps I was unclear. The student told me my brothers mental illness was him “faking it”. People who don’t have psychiatric degrees shouldn’t diagnose or undiagnos illness.

  2. Cth, you bring up a very interesting and important discussion. I was recently talking to a friend and she argued that mental illness does not exist. She even refrains from using the word “mental illness.”

    Basically her point is that as a society we dehumanize and isolate those with “mental illnesses.” We offer them drugs that mess with the delicate natural chemical balances within their brains. We ship them off to asylums and hide them away. We never draw the connection that maybe our “treatment” of the “mental illnesses” could be the culprits. A blogger, I like about this topic says that there needs to be a paradigm shift from a “mental illness” paradigm to a “overwhelmed by natural human experience” paradigm.

    Here’s a quote from him:

    “Linda clearly frames her story within the “mental illness as a lifelong brain disease” paradigm (what I’ll refer to simply as the “mental illness” paradigm). What if we shift to a significantly different and in many ways more “common sense” paradigm? What if we let go of the concept of “mental illness” altogether and adopt a very different set of assumptions: (a) Human beings (and INDEED all living organisms) strive continuously towards a healthy, enjoyable existence; (b) moving towards and maintaining such an existence requires that we find relative peace with certain dilemmas that are inherent within our existence (e.g., death, loss, personal identity, balancing autonomy and relationship, balancing freedom and security, finding meaning, etc.); (c) the more difficulty we have in finding relative peace with these dilemmas, the more we suffer; and finally (d) some individuals, for various reasons and at different points in their lives, are particularly vulnerable/sensitive/aware of/challenged by these dilemmas and are therefore more prone to experiencing intense suffering associated with them.”

    And one more:

    “The “mental illness” paradigm—an insidious cancer:
    Cancer is essentially what occurs when a cell of an organism “forgets” its role as a member of a larger whole and turns against the organism, becoming consumed only with its own reproduction. Using this metaphor, we can say the “mental illness” paradigm fosters this turning one part of a whole against itself. We see this taking place interpersonally between members of our society as we develop ever increasing fear of those labelled “mentally ill,” and we see this taking place intrapersonally as we develop ever increasing fear and suspicion of our own “unusual” or “extreme” subjective experiences”

    Read the whole article here:

    This topic is really deep and there is no simple solution to it. But there are changes happening in the world of mental health and I think it’s awesome.

  3. It’s interesting that perhaps three unhealthy, unhelpful (despicable) views regarding mental illness have been articulated by cth, forests and MJ:

    1) shaming them and regarding them as weak.

    2) accused of faking it.

    3) treated coldly and inhumanely.

    Perhaps a long suffering, patient, kind, gentle, compassionate, ongoing loving relationship with the sufferer is the ultimate, if not only, solution that is humane and efficacious?

  4. She also use to rely heavily on the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)” handbook of “mental illnesses” by the American Psychiatric Association, but she told me that the cases she sees are so unique and symptoms differ so differently from patient to patient that it is not very useful.

    She proposes “peer-run residential homes and families and friends themselves could offer such support to loved ones in times of need. The cost of providing such places of refuge is certainly much less than the cost of psychiatric hospitalization—there are simply no excuses as to why we don’t have such places of refuge set up in every community and readily available to anyone who needs them.” from the article above.

    She also told me about It’s a site for those who hear voices. Where did we get the idea that there’s something wrong with voices in our heads? There many people around the world who live with it and are functioning fine. Basically I think in this whole conversation there needs to be empathy on both sides. (Sorry for all the long comments, this is a topic I am interested in.)

    • I was anticipating comments regarding “true love’s kiss,” but I guess I shouldn’t be too picky… :-)

  5. Dr. Ben, I think you’ll have to suffice with true love’s kiss coming in the form of raising awareness for mental health disorders, at least for today :)

    Cth and MJ, this is a great topic to discuss and I thought about writing some articles on it (but perhaps after I exit graduate school purgatory). There’s a lot to say regarding this, but the bottom line is that society as a whole is very poorly educated when it comes to understanding and deciphering the signs of mental health issues. Not only is it stigmatized in Asian communities, but African-American and Latino communities as well. I strongly believe that if the church began to educate itself in this area we would be able to serve, with tremendous efficacy, many mentally ill people who would otherwise become marginalized, hospitalized, homeless, jailed or dead. And yes, we do often over-spiritualize this, but modern Christian counselors and psychologists have been helping people who suffer from these disorders to recover in a holistic fashion, i.e. with medication, counseling, etc.

    I recently took a free twelve week course through an organization called National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They are a secular organization but are beginning to partner with churches because there is such a great need for manpower in assisting and caring for the mentally ill. Through that class, I have amassed a wealth of materials that provides a basic, but very eye-opening, understanding of the many facets of mental illness. If anyone would like to peruse my materials, let me know. In the near future, I’d like to present this to the pastoral staff in Chicago so that they would be better equipped to handle those suffering from mental illness.

  6. Yes great movie, Ben. Glad you liked it. I think all comments about the movie should be made on my article though :)

    Sometimes We Need Hero and Villain

  7. And on a serious note, really sorry to hear about your cat, Ben. At least you have the others to console you! I think we’ll see our pets in Heaven…

  8. Thanks for the mental illness discussion everyone. This is a serious issue, and another issue that exposes our ideas of the gospel. If the gospel is merely a legal transaction, our view of the mentally ill is likely to be rather poor.

    I just have three somewhat random comments on the topic…

    First, from firsthand experience of bipolar disorder and epileptic seizures, I know that science has proven some links between chemical imbalances and mental behavoir. Much progress has been made in studying the chemical nature of our bodies.

    Second, I find much peace and healing in the work of Dr. Steven Hassan. This quote is piercing like a surgeon’s knife of healing: “Cults manipulate the elements that form an individual’s identity including beliefs, values, and relationships. From a mental-health perspective, the cult diverts elements of an individual’s psyche into another personality. The cult member comes to exhibit symptoms of dissociative disorder as defined in the DSMIV, the diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association.” –Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (Steven Hassan), page 34

    Third, I’ve learned much from the late Henri Nouwen’s writings. What value is there in a mentally challenged person? What value is there in the weak and marginalized if not function? What does a leader have to offer? What can we learn from those such as the mentally challenged? Well, according to Nouwen, there is much. In fact if we miss this we may be missing everything Jesus tried to teach: “The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.” –Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

    Nouwen has so much to offer from his deep experiences at L’Arche in Trosly, France… Nouwen – caregiving.

  9. forestsfailyou

    On the topic of true love’s first kiss how many here kissed their wives or husbands before the wedding day? If you didn’t were you awkward or nervous.

    • We had 3 weeks from proposal to marriage-by-faith… or else…

      We didn’t get to “kiss the bride”…that wasn’t “spiritual” for a “house church”… didn’t get to have a reception so we had dinner at the ubf center… dancing or having a reception somewhere other than the ubf center wasn’t “spiritual”… so nothing happened until after getting married.

    • Great question! I’m curious to hear others’ responses. My husband and I did not get married in ubf (I met him at the church I started going to after I stopped going to ubf). We had our first kiss on our wedding day. This is unusual even for evangelical Christian couples, but it was a decision we made early on in our dating relationship (plus, our dating/engagement time was relatively short: 2 months dating, 4 months engagement). We had both kissed other people in previous relationships and wanted to wait for our first kiss at the altar.

      This is not something we think everyone needs to do, it’s just what we decided for ourselves. Our rationale was sort of like, we don’t need to kiss to figure out if we want to get married (which for us, was the purpose of our dating relationship), so we’d rather wait. It was not awkward and I was not nervous (but it probably helps that I “knew” how to kiss already).

    • Some good friends of mine starting dating while “in” ubf… They were shamed and shunned and trained until they both left and got married elsewhere. They are happily married now.

      I attended a non-ubf wedding once while “in” ubf… I was called Satan for doing so when my wife and I returned from the wedding.

      This is the crap that needs to be called out and rebuked. Leaders at ubf who do such things ought to be dismissed and sent to rehab.

    • Forests, you asked “If you didn’t were you awkward or nervous…”

      Yes! We were beyond nervous… we were TERRIFIED. Only now after 20 years of marriage has the fear subsided. We were terrified each time we got pregnant… terrified of losing our mission… terrified of being labeled as family-centered… terrified of picking our own names for our children… terrified of missing a ubf meeting due to children…

      One good thing though from all the f-ed up “marriage by faith” b——t is that we NEVER long for the good ol days. We don’t have the problem of “rekindling the flame that was there when you first married”. We always are creating a new flame :)

  10. By the way “true love’s first kiss” in those 2 movies (Maleficent and Frozen) had NOTHING to do with romance. Both movies get my “two thumbs up” for identifying two different kinds of love higher and more profound that romance– a mother’s love and a sister’s love.

  11. While we’re on the topic of mental health, I’m wondering what people think about suicide. I grew up believing that anyone who committed suicide went to hell, because, well, the last thing they did was a sin and they couldn’t have repented, and unrepentant sinners go to hell. This was, of course, when I had a works-based idea about salvation.

    Even those who believe in the gospel of grace might argue that one who truly knows God’s grace would not take his own life.

    I attended a funeral last year of a man who committed suicide. His wife had decided to take their son, leave him, and marry another man. I did not know him well, but my friend was very close to him. She said she always has believed that people who committed suicide go to hell. I wasn’t sure what to say. I thought, well, we don’t know if he cried out to God with his last breath. But even that didn’t seem like enough, didn’t seem quite right.

    How would you have responded to my friend?

    • Suicide is not an automatic ticket to hell. Nothing in Scripture says such a thing, and any proof-text of such a teaching contradicts the gospel messages.

      Christians who think this way, as you used to, “we don’t know if he cried out to God with his last breath.” are trapped in a false gospel–which I’ve repeatedly called the “hamster wheel” gospel. It is a wheel of fear and death and has nothing to do with the love Jesus displayed on the cross.

      I would have used this chance and a way to drive home the gospel messages of grace, peace, kingdom, glory and salvation. The bottom line is this: Do we believe God will do what He promised? An epic surrender to grace yields a firm belief in the promises of God.

    • Also “the last thing they did was a sin”… that is a foolish and un-Christlike game to play. And regardless of whatever our “last act” is, good or bad, sin or not sin, ALL people die as a sinner. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. The cross does not change that.

      We do not escape the consequences of sin nor do we escape death. The gospel message of salvation is in regard to the wages of sin and what happens after death. Today is the day of salvation and today we are invited to enter into the rest of God–an epic uniting with the Spirit and the God who is love.

  12. Regarding suicide, I also used to think it was a ticket to hell, but I no longer think so.

    Hopefully without sounding like a cop out, I have decided to leave (who goes to) heaven and hell in God’s hands, where it rightfully belongs.

    Instead, I would personally do my best in all of life to focus on the gospel of the grace of God (Ac 20:24), the whole plan/purpose/will/counsel of God (Ac 20:27), and allow the Holy Spirit to do what only God and the Holy Spirit can do (Jn 3:8; 1 Cor 2:12-14; Ps 115:3; 135:6; Ac 16:6-9).