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if only the heart was this simple ...

I happen to love praising God in song. So much so that if there's an organized choir in heaven, I would sign up the moment I get there and gladly worship for eternity. Wait ... scratch that. If the choir sings in a slug-like tempo and only to the accompaniment of a gigantic organ and prohibits any body movements such as clapping or swaying, then I'm totally out. Maybe I'll go sweep the golden streets or something.

Anyway, I visited an International Church in HK the other day and was introduced to some new songs. One in particular sticks out in my mind for a couple reasons. For one, it was completely ambiguous as to who we were actually singing to for the entire first verse:
"I'm falling, falling, falling in love with you. (x3)"
There were other words in the latter verses that clarifies that "you" refers to Jesus, but these are the only words I remember. I tried to search for the actual lyrics but only found secular love songs for obvious reasons. So that's not so exciting and borderline sketchy, but then the worship leader switched things up by singing that phrase in Chinese.
"我深深爱上你. (x3)"
Singing those two phrases in different languages back to back blew my mind. In English, the word falling gives you the imagery that someone is uncontrollably being sucked downward into love. Perhaps that's the reason why so many people in the West "wait" for love to happen to them, as if one day the ground under them will vanish and they'll fall down a precipice of love - a free fall in which they have no control over whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, that could and probably happens to a lot of people (just look at John Cusack in Serendipity). But in Chinese, the phrase "爱上你" has the character "上" which means "up" literally. So in some ways, loving someone has this upward imagery (at least to me) - as if you have to put work in and and climb skyward.

I'm no literary expert in Chinese or English, but having those two images juxtaposed against each other is powerful. Can one "fall" in love in one culture and "climb" into love in another? Do grammatical constructs change the way people perceive what love should be like? It's interesting how the two languages portray love so differently. In truth, there's a balance that needs to be struck down the middle. Love isn't something you just happen to trip over and fall into, and neither is it something that is devoid of chemistry and requires painstaking work constantly. All this just makes me wonder... am I falling in love with God, or climbing up to be in love with Him.

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  • Anonymous Steve H. says so:
    11:19 AM  

    Nice post. If you briefly survey Western romantic literature, you'll find the idea of “falling in love” is common throughout. Love in the West is something that just "happens" to someone. Even our vernacular reveals how much this idea of passiveness is built into our conception of love: "She's the one for me" as if one stumbles onto the love of one’s life.

    Several years ago, National Geographic examined the idea of love across several cultures and found that the idea of romantic love is unique only to Western cultures. Romantic love, that two people would haphazardly come together, is ridiculous as seen by other cultures.

    That said, our vernacular of "falling in love with God" is certainly colored with Western eyes. Our concept of love affects our language, and vice versa. But is love something that just happens to us? I’ll argue that us “falling in love with God” is something God planned from eternity past, before he built the firmaments of the earth. It is because of God’s plan and his first love, that love is possible and we’re able to love him back. This all sounds very Calvinistic with a smidge of Aquinas (prime mover), doesn’t it? top