Love Without Understanding

Recently, I was talking about movies with a friend and after rattling off a few favorites, I mentioned one that always makes the cut, A River Runs Through It. This film was made in 1992 and is set in rural Montana with some great actors and beautiful cinematography. The story is about the Maclean brothers who grow up in a minister’s home and try to cross various and distinct rites of passage while always finding camaraderie through fly fishing.

I forgot how much I love this movie. I forgot how much I relate to the narrative. I also forgot how difficult it is to watch Paul Maclean (Brad Pitt), go from a fun-loving, mischievous child to an addicted, destructive man that is eventually overwhelmed by his demons.

Paul’s arc comes to an emotional and tragic conclusion at the end of the film. The personal impact of it is summarized by Reverend Maclean (Tom Skerritt) in a sermon. He said:

“Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question, “We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?” Lord it is true we can seldom help those who are closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so, it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love completely, without complete understanding.”

We can love completely without complete understanding. It's hard to fully grasp the weight of those words but as they sink in, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ love for us. He loves completely with complete understanding. He fully loves even though he has absolute knowledge of who we are. He loves anyway.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is complete love and when it fills our hearts, we’re able to express it beyond our own comprehension. We apply it generously in ways that we couldn’t imagine otherwise. We love completely without complete understanding.

If you’re like me and many others, there is someone close to you that requires an inexplicable, long suffering love. With God’s help, we can give it to them. We can show it to them in their desperate need and even display it as they consciously take a destructive path. We can give it even though they mercilessly break our hearts.

Complete love doesn’t mean condoning or enabling behavior that is harmful and detrimental. Jesus didn’t condone our sin problem. His love paid the price for, covered and redeemed it. He is the standard of love.

Love completely without complete understanding because it is far too often that we don’t understand yet we still desperately need to love.