In Love That Lasts, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus > Religion Jefferson Bethke and his wife, Alyssa, expose the distorted views of love that permeate our culture and damage our hearts, minds, and souls.
Drawing from Jeff’s “prodigal son” personal history and from Alyssa’s “True Love Waits” experience, the Bethkes point to a third and better way. Blending personal storytelling with biblical teaching, they offer readers an inspiring, realistic vision of love, dating, marriage, and sex.
Young people today enter adulthood with expectations of blissful dating followed by a romantic, fulfilling marriage only to discover they’ve been duped. They learned about love and sexuality from social media, their friends, Disney fairy tales, pornography, or even their own rocky past, and they have no idea what healthy, lifelong love is supposed to be like. The results are often disastrous, with this generation becoming one of the most relationally sick, sexually addicted, and divorce ridden in history.
Looking to God’s design while drawing lessons from their own successes and failures, the Bethkes explode the fictions and falsehoods of our current moment. One by one, they peel back lies such as,
- the belief that every person has only one soul mate,
- that marriage will complete you,
- and that pornography and hook-ups are harmless.
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About the Author
Jefferson Bethke is the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus > Religion and It's Not What You Think. He and his wife, Alyssa, host The Real Life Podcast and run FamilyTeams.com, an online initiative equipping families to live as a multi-generational team on mission. They live in Maui with their daughters, Kinsley and Lucy, and son, Kannon. To say hi or to learn more, go to jeffandalyssa.com.
Alyssa Bethke is the author of Satisfied: Finding Hope, Joy, and Contentment Right Where You Are. She and her husband, Jefferson Bethke, are bloggers, YouTubers, and hosts of The Real Life Podcast. They are passionate about encouraging and strengthening families at familyteams.com, a program that brings families together with the idea of becoming a team. They live in Maui with their three children, Kinsley, Kannon, and Lucy, and dog named Aslan.
Read an Excerpt
WHERE IS THE LOVE?
(The Black Eyed Peas)
I lost my virginity when I was sixteen.
In the back of a car.
In a church parking lot.
To someone who wasn't my girlfriend.
I know that's pretty forward, seeing as how we just met and all. But honestly, I don't say that to shock you. In fact, my intention is quite the opposite. According to stats, that's normal.Oh, and did I mention that Alyssa didn't even hold someone's hand until we started dating in our twenties? To say our marriage was a collision of two very different stories would be an understatement. But that's Alyssa's story, and I'll let her tell it in subsequent chapters.
When I think back to that time in my life, I shudder. I was plagued with debilitating insecurity, trying so hard to fit the mold projected as necessary to be popular. Isn't it interesting how much we sacrifice simply in hopes that others will like us and think we are cool?
I was searching-and searching desperately. I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be known. But from the outside I looked like a model kid. I was on the high school baseball team that played in two state championships in a row.
My teachers usually told my mom that I was very bright but that I could probably apply myself a little more. I was the guy who seemed to have it all together. I spent an exhausting amount of energy on editing and protecting my image and caring about what others thought of me. And when you spend all your time on that, you have no time for anything else-yourself, your passions, your joy, following Jesus, and so on.
Filtering your life, or having others believe a lie about you (or at least a half-truth), is a full-time job. We may not realize it, but many of us are playing a game of emotional and spiritual Jenga when it comes to romance, sexuality, and love. We make a lot of decisions that feel good in the moment, that seem like good ideas at the time, before we even consider their consequences. And just like in Jenga, every poor decision we make is another piece we remove from the tower, weakening our wholeness and humanness.
Most likely, it will all come crashing down. After a terrible breakup. An unhealthy relationship. Heartache. Fierce anger and bitterness.
It's only then we realize it was the little decisions along the way that brought us to that point. The reason the breakup hurt so bad in college was because we set up unhealthy relationship patterns when we were fifteen. The reason our marriage starts to lose its foundation is that in our dating relationships in college we moved on to the next person as soon as the butterflies went away.
The reason we almost cracked under the weight of shame after having sex with our boyfriend or girlfriend is because we spent years placing our identity not in Jesus but in purity rings and "true love waits" bracelets.
When we were actually making those decisions, nothing fell on our heads in those moments, so we thought we were in the clear. When we pulled a piece out of the tower, everything still held together.
When we said "just this once" and clicked on that link to watch porn.
When we went to that party and made out with that person we never saw again.
When we fantasized about that girl or made up a whole scenario of life with that guy who wasn't ours to think about in the first place.
When we stayed in the relationship even when all our friends and family said not to.
When we led that guy or girl on because we wanted to have control or feel wanted, even though we didn't really like them enough to date them.
So we kept going. We kept doing it.
Until one day, one particular decision became that final piece of Jenga-right when it was removed, it all fell apart. A pile at our feet.
I got married in my early twenties and quickly realized how those decisions and views and thoughts from ages ago were staring me in the face. I was fighting an uphill battle, one that was on a ninety-degree cliff.
I don't think I'm alone in that feeling.
In fact, I'm a decade removed from that season in my life, and sometimes it feels like yesterday. There are images. Hundreds of images. Dozens of memories.
Burned into the front of my brain.
And in some ways, I'm still haunted by those pictures and memories and thoughts. Sometimes following Jesus is gritty-blood, sweat, and tears type of stuff. There are moments when an uninvited, shameful memory jumps right in front of my concentration, and it takes everything in me-usually me lying on the floor, gritting my teeth, hands on my head-to remind myself of truth and ask: What does God say about me in this moment? What does He say about Himself right now?
That sixteen-year-old Jeff is dead. He was left in the grave, was nailed to the same cross Jesus was, the minute I said yes to following Him. I'm a new creation. Shame has been defeated. Jesus looks at me with searing, white-hot, ferocious love. I'm His.
This is the battleground of a healthy relationship: the mind. It starts there. Our thoughts can define us, and right views of God are the most important things about us because they create the entire trajectory of our lives.
Alyssa and I have battled with thoughts that harm our relationship. The way we see it, both of us came into our marriage sick in some way. A disease of sorts had been coursing through our systems for most of our lives, but sometimes it takes a marriage to start seeing the symptoms.
It reminds me of a party we had before we moved from Washington to Maui. We didn't know it at the time, but someone was definitely carrying a crazy intense virus. Within three days of the party, eleven of the fourteen people came down with a stomach bug that involved being wrapped around a toilet for two days straight, not knowing what end it was going to come out of next (and if you've been there, you know that might be one of the worst predicaments you can ever face in life).
When I was at the party, I didn't feel sick. I didn't feel like I caught anything. I didn't feel infected. In fact, I felt just the opposite. Happy, cheery, hanging out with friends and family. It wasn't until many days later that I actually was sick.
Yet, I had caught the virus at the party days earlier.
In many ways, that's us with love.
We are lovesick and love-diseased. Our views of romance, sexuality, dating, and marriage are killing us. We've been infected for years and haven't even realized it. It almost killed me in high school and stayed with me in college, like shrapnel in my soul that I'm still plucking out and finding healing for. Nothing has caused me more pain, grief, and hurt than previous relationships and my pursuit of love.
Isn't that true for most of us? We get to our mid-twenties or midthirties and feel like we should be beginning our adult lives, yet it feels more like the end. We are tired. We are hurt. We are exhausted. And we don't want to do it anymore. We are left to pick up the pieces of our adolescence, and we now look back with enough perspective to realize just how detrimental our decisions have been.
How did we get here? Why are so many of us entering adult life, our marriages, jobs, and new families hanging on by a thread rather than starting our journey with vibrancy and life and fullness?
Maybe it has something to do with our bad definition of love.
Clearly something Isn't working. Clearly we've got some wires crossed.
Our culture at large is hurt. Sick. Unhealthy. Bruised. Broken.
And a question that haunts me is, if we are all sick, do we realize how sick we truly are?
Loneliness has been declared an epidemic. Porn has gotten so out of control, it's been labeled a "public health crisis" and "public hazard," as Pamela Anderson, one of the most famous porn stars in history, put it. The use of antidepressants has more than doubled since 1998. "Friends with benefits" and "no strings attached" seem to be the normative view of most relationships-and of Hollywood movie titles.
Marriage is becoming so trivial, or is failing at such a high rate, that some lawmakers have considered things like a "two-year marriage license" instead of a lifetime commitment. And selfish, casual, hookup sex has reached its logical conclusion in many ways. It has been so detached from an actual relationship that some people now buy lifelike robots that they can customize and have sex with. I mean, if sex is simply about pleasuring yourself and getting what you want out of it, then why not get a robot instead of another human? They are much easier, and always "in the mood" as long as they're plugged in.
In a strange irony, one of the biggest pornography sites in the world, a place that is probably the farthest from real love, since you are literally having sex with yourself while staring at a computer screen, seems to be full of people in search of that very thing, as the most frequently used word in its comments section is love. Loneliness. Trivial marriages. Sex robots. Porn.
In a world where you can get anything you want at any time (as long as you have Amazon Prime or Postmates), love seems to be the proverbial carrot on a stick.
Yet Scripture says that "God is love."
And a famous quote says, "Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God."
The good news is that the reverse is also true. God is knocking on the door of every brothel, looking for man. We all have our different brothels-places we go in search of connection, intimacy, and love. We need to be in a relationship because we are addicted to approval and that feeling of emotional and relational intimacy.
For some, it's the need to be recognized, liked, affirmed, and admired.
Or we scratch our heads, wondering why we so easily fall in and out of love with people we are dating, not realizing we are addicted to an ideal of a person who doesn't exist, and our ideal not only crushes them but also doesn't satisfy us. Then we move on, hoping to find it with the next person, creating a vicious cycle.
We become human bodies full of wounds, hurts, emotions, and scars, carrying around so much baggage that we aren't sure how much farther we can go. But what if it wasn't actually love that got us to that place? What if it was the misunderstanding of love that did?
When I was sixteen and fresh out of driver's ed, I had my first flat tire. I say "first," because, well, let's just say my first couple of years behind the wheel didn't go so well. (If we ever have coffee, remind me to tell you about that one time I totaled my first car after only owning it for two weeks because I thought it would be a good idea to hydroplane purposely in big puddles for fun-with the car my dad had spent months building and repairing before giving it to me.)
I remember driving and feeling like something was a little off in the car's movement. I was a few miles from home, driving on a side street after hanging out with some friends. (I can't remember exactly what I was listening to but knowing the year, it was probably "Yeah" by Usher or "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day. I may have an eclectic taste in music.) But it felt like the gas wasn't working or that the emergency brake was on or the gas pedal needed to be pressed a little harder than usual to stay at a normal speed. It felt like I was towing or dragging something.
Since this was my first flat tire, I didn't know what it was. I thought a flat tire would be more obvious. You know, like in the movies, where a tire explodes and the car spins out of control.
At least in my case, driving felt off and weird, but I could still accelerate, turn, and stop.
Little did I know that every second I drove with a flat tire, the worse it was for my whole car-the rims, the engine, the alignment, and more. But I kept driving. And my car kept getting worse and worse and worse.
For a lot of us, the way we see love, dating, sexuality, marriage, and romance is like a flat tire. There's a little something off at first. We know it and we feel it. Sure, we can still get from point A to point B on a flat tire. Sure, it does the job. Sure, sex before marriage doesn't feel wrong. Sure, living together while you're dating helps you learn more about each other. But there are moments when it feels "off." There are moments when it feels more damaging than it should. But we don't know any better, so we keep driving. And it gets worse. And worse. And worse.
We were created for more.
We were never meant to drive on a flat tire. We were never meant to have sex with someone who wasn't our husband or wife. We were never meant to be addicted to porn. We were never meant to be so wrapped up in a relationship that makes us feel as if we are losing our god when we break up with that boyfriend or girlfriend.
Years later, when we finally pull over to look under the hood, many of us realize-for the first time-just how damaging the flat tire was.
The compounded years have made us view love as something we can take instead of what we can receive.
As something we feel instead of something to commit to.
The reason love, romance, and sexuality feel so right, even when they are wrong, is because we were created for them. Even the distortions hold an element of truth; that's what a distortion is-an alteration of the original. But there's more. So much more. God doesn't want to take away our joy; He wants to give us more of it. He doesn't want to take away our sexual desire; He wants to give us the context in which it works the best. God doesn't want us to hate romance; He wants to introduce us to the greatest love story of all time.
In order to realize where we went so wrong, we first need to see where it was all so right. Where this intoxicating intimacy and love comes from in the first place.
As author Christopher West says, "Love, by its nature, desires to expand its own communion." God didn't need us. He was perfectly complete in and of Himself. But love creates. Love overflows.
Love is abundance. Love is life. God made it so, simply out of the goodness of who He is, that He would create image bearers to share in that beautiful exchange of love. A beautiful picture of otherness becoming oneness. That's what marriage vows mean. That's what sex is in body. And that's what covenant is in promise.
We can't miss the truth found in that beautiful divine and mysterious and glorious moment. That when He created us and all the uniqueness of male and female bodies, He was choosing to communicate something about Himself.
One of the first commands in all Scripture is to have sex. Well, God's exact words are "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), but you get the idea. Because even before sin entered the world, male and female were incomplete and were built with a longing, a holy longing for the otherness to become oneness. That's the story we were created to tell.
As the poet Wendell Berry put it, "The sexuality of community life is centered on marriage, which joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined. This joining of two who know, love, and trust one another brings them in the same breath in the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful, and joyful."
Excerpted from "Love that Lasts"
Copyright © 2017 Jefferson Bethke and Alyssa Bethke.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Note to Our Readers, xi,
A Few Things to Remember, xv,
01: Where Is the Love? (The Black Eyed Peas), 1,
02: What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction), 19,
03: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room (John Mayer), 35,
04: Riding Solo (Jason Derulo), 45,
05: Fake Love (Drake), 63,
06: Lucky (Jason Mraz), 77,
07: Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen), 89,
08: Bleeding Love (Leona Lewis), 99,
09: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift), 117,
10: When I'm 64 (The Beatles), 133,
11: At Last (Etta James), 145,
12: Stay with You (John Legend), 155,
13: All of Me (John Legend), 167,
14: Let's Get It On (Marvin Gaye), 179,
15: Let's Talk About Sex (Salt-N-Pepa), 193,
16: Just the Way You Are (Bruno Mars), 211,
17: Unpack Your Heart (Phillip Phillips), 221,
Now What?, 237,
Additional Resources, 247,
About the Authors, 249,