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David Hegg: The ethical dilemma of love

Posted: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I’ve been fortunate to be on vacation up in the Pacific Northwest for the past week and escaped the blistering weather you readers have been experiencing. Nice timing on my part I guess. But as is always the case, vacation has brought time to really see the world around me, and reflect on some of its basic themes.

Driving from SoCal to the Oregon coast was great fun actually. And a thought struck me as I watched cars come and go on the freeway. Every one of them was at one time brand new, the pride and joy of a new owner. And I am sure each owner vowed to keep that shiny new vehicle in pristine condition, taking care of its paint, changing the oil religiously and being extra careful to preserve the upholstery.

So what happened? How do new cars become old clunkers? It’s simple. It’s all about the laws of incremental change. While some change is dramatic, the vast majority of it creeps by. Like the cracks in the sidewalk and the paint on the house, the decay happens slowly, imperceptibly, almost invisibly until we are struck with the inevitable sense that something is broken beyond repair. It won’t ever be new again.

Actually, this column isn’t about cars, sidewalks or house paint. While on vacation I received word that a couple with whom we have lived and loved and traveled had decided their marriage was irreparable. It wasn’t new anymore, and hadn’t been for some time. Once upon a time, they had met, fallen in love and lived out years of marital bliss, but now they no longer felt the same. They decided to call it quits and end a relationship they once had vowed to invest in, and work on, and stay in “until death do us part.”

What happened? The law of incrementalism came crashing down on them. Somewhere along the line they stopped trying, stopped doing the little things like courtesy, and kindness, and sacrifice, and meaningful conversation. They thought their relationship ran on the power of feeling, but they didn’t realize that it had to be fueled and re-fueled from the tank of dedication and commitment. Little by little they let the magic slip away because they were preoccupied with their own lives, their own rights, their own dreams. Until one day they began to realize that the marriage wasn’t new anymore. In fact, it was a clunker, and they had only themselves to blame.

Unfortunately, this story is true, except for one thing. One of the partners did work at the marriage. One of them labored to remain courteous, kind and caring. One of them took the vow seriously, every day. But the incremental erosion of commitment on the part of the other spouse ended up ruining both of their lives, and probably those of their three children.

So watch out for incrementalism, and watch over those you love, and be intentional about keeping your relationship new and vital every day. You’ll be glad you did.

David W. Hegg is senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita.


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