Danica Patrick on Love and Marriage

… you can’t just pick when love happens and with whom.

So said NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in a USA Today Interview posted online on July 26. The article was based on a recent interview about Danica’s relationship with fellow NASCAR rookie, Ricky Stenhouse.  The success of their relationship was summed up in “She’s cussing a bit less; he’s dressing better.”  How is that for proof of a great relationship?

But the heart of the story as it intersects with America’s views about love and relationships is the above quote, … you can’t just pick when love happens and with whom.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? But tragically deceptive.

Danica divorced her physical therapist husband Paul Hospenthal in January after posting the divorce plans on her Facebook page last November.  And several months before she likened leaving IndyCar for NASCAR to the relationship with an ex-husband, someone “you don’t think about… anymore.”

Danica’s love philosophy will guarantee her a long list of ex-husbands.  How did love happen and un-happen with Paul?  When will love un-happen with Ricky?

Marriage based on “love happens” is sure to fail. It is likened to the crude comment of a man who upon seeing a beautiful woman, “I think I’m in love,” simply meaning he is turned on by her body but knows nothing about her, and certainly does not love her. Love and completely selfish lust have been confused.

This is not to discount the God designed attraction between men and women based on physical appearance or engaging personality or common interests or even genuine caring. All of those were factors in my developing relationship with Linda 42 years ago.  But that  should not be mistaken for love, as it so easily is, a love that doesn’t last.  Rather, love must be a decision and an action such that when entered, it becomes a determined focus on that person to whom you commit your life in marriage. And any marriage that has lasted more than a week knows that it takes more than “love happens” to make it work.

H. Norman Wright contrasted two definitions of love in his teaching on marriage 38 years ago.

How about this one?  “Love is a feeling you feel when you feel that you’re going to get a feeling that you never felt before.”  Try saying that too fast and you may never get your tongue untied.  But that’s essentially Danica’s definition of love.

Much better, Wright says, “Real love means an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.”

I find myself wanting to argue with some of the nuances of this definition such as what is meant by unconditional.  Even God’s love in some sense is conditional.  But the point is that love is like grace, unearned, undeserved, a commitment of the one who loves, not the qualifications or perfections of the one being loved.

Even better, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Ephesians 5:25

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I hope Danica discovers true love, and most of all that will mean discovering Jesus, receiving His love and learning how to love from His example,


2 thoughts on “Danica Patrick on Love and Marriage

  1. Could you please explain “how in some sense God’s love is conditional”? I got lost on that part a little.

    Thank you!


    1. Courtney,

      Great Question. I won’t do it justice here, but maybe start us on a helpful path.

      Language is dynamic and varying, especially the language of love. D.A. Carson wrote a little book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, distinguishing five different ways the Bible speaks of God’s love.
      1. Love within the Trinity, particularly focusing on the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father.
      2. God’s providential love for all of creation.
      3. God’s saving love for a fallen world. John 3:16
      4. God’s particular love for the church. Ephesians 5:25
      5. God’s love that is provisional or conditional on faith and obedience, “Keep yourselves in God’s love,” Jude 21 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love..” John 15:9

      God’s saving love is such that Christ came to die for the sins of the whole world, yet even there, the full experience of that love is conditioned on believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

      The Love of God in Scripture is always juxtaposed over against his holiness, reflected in wrath or eternal judgment on those who reject his love.

      So, in the sense that “God is love,” that is unconditionally true, but applied to eternal salvation, it is clearly conditional to believing in Jesus; and even in the experience of believers, there is a sense in which it is conditional on obedience. That doesn’t mean God stops loving his children when they disobey, but it does affect our relationship.

      This is a very inadequate response. Carson’s book is well worth reading to sort this out more fully.


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