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Love that Lasts
Is real love an illusive thing in these days of fast food, pop-ups and speed dating? Not according to actress Jennifer O'Neil.

Jennifer O'Neill
Jennifer O'Neill
Photo courtesy Jennifer O'Neill Ministries

Spring has sprung, and love is in the air.

Unfortunately, these days, many people are short of breath.

"I've spent $35,000 trying to find my true love," Kimberlee admitted to TV's Dr. Phil in February 2004. "I've exhausted every means there is to find someone."

From numerous dating sites, to joining the military—where the odds are 25 men to one woman—Kimberlee sought her special someone.

Love may be our "True North," the ideal for which everyone's searching, but where can it be found? More importantly, once found, can it really last forever in this world of fast food, pop-up ads and speed dating?

Many doubt it.

Today's media constantly feeds us the notion of fairy-tale love — and we're willing consumers. From Cinderella to Sleepless in Seattle, to reality shows like The Bachelor, we've been conditioned to believe it's possible to find our Prince Charming.

However, once the curtain's drawn and the stage lights fade; after the wedding ring's been placed and the vows uttered, often the chemistry fades, the thrill fizzles, and many begin looking, yet again, for this elusive, mysterious, wonderful thing called love.

Sadly, plastered across magazine covers in January were the beautiful tear-streaked faces of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, now separated after four and a half years of a marriage seemingly made in heaven. Pitt was quoted as saying, "Nothing is ever what it seems … I hate the notion of fairy tales, anyway."

Secretly, every bride is hoping that her marriage will be the one to last. Her husband will be the one who's faithful, and in 50 years, they'll still be holding hands and giggling like newlyweds.

Unfortunately, more than half of today's marriages end in divorce.

How is it that our hearts can swing so wildly from passion to complacency — or worse, disgust?

As Dr. Phil explains, love needs to begin with ourselves. "If you don't regard yourself with respect and love," he says, "you can't give those things to someone else."

Many assume that a tummy-tuck or a winning lottery ticket will make it easier to accept themselves.

But actress Jennifer O'Neill knows better. Notwithstanding being described as "one of the great beauties of the 20th Century," and appearing in more than 30 movies, O'Neill hated who she was.

Born in Brazil to an English mother and a Spanish-Irish father, O'Neill grew up in a home where, contrary to many, her parents were "madly in love." So much so that, "as a child, I felt invisible," she recalls.

"I was very stimulated by my education and there was always food on the table," O'Neill continues, "but I had this hole in my heart since the time I was a little girl."

As she got older and the pain persisted, O'Neill began to wonder if she could earn acceptance by way of perfect grades, a nice disposition or good looks. "My search was typical of the old song, 'Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,' " she tells Living Light News.

A modeling career was handed to her by the prestigious Ford Agency at the age of 15, and soon she was gracing the pages of Cosmopolitan and Vogue. O'Neill went on to serve as spokesperson for Cover Girl cosmetics for 30 years.

As well, following her debut role in 1972's Summer of '42, O'Neill worked alongside acting legends John Wayne, Robert Duval, Donald Sutherland and Anthony Quinn, and subsequently traveled the world.

"On the outside, my life looked very enviable," she admits.

Yet, despite having the world as her oyster, O'Neill's unhappiness consumed her.

At 17, she married. "I thought I'd be adored as my father adored my mother. They seemed to finish each other's circles," she recalls.

This led to motherhood at 18, and soon, the end of her first 'happily-ever-after.'

But that was only the beginning.

O'Neill went on to marry — and divorce — seven other men, each of which she believed to be the one who would heal her heartache.

She persisted in falling for insecure men, who seemed to need her as much as she needed them. "What I found was there's nothing more unattractive than an emotionally-needy person," O'Neill observes. "When we base our relationships on need — when we go into a relationship expecting that person to fill us up — we're pretty well doomed."

She describes those years of broken marriages, nine miscarriages and an abortion as nightmarish.

"I was like a walking soap opera. All that time I was searching for a love that doesn't come in a package — in a husband or a job."

Finally, at the age of 38, O'Neill met someone who would never let her down, someone who filled the hole in her heart with meaning and worth.

He was the Son of God — Jesus Christ.

"There was not a word big enough to describe my relief, joy and excitement when I accepted Him!" expresses O'Neill.

"God's love meets me where I am. He doesn't judge me, He loves me unconditionally, and He is reliable. He wants the very best for me; He is capable of slaying all my dragons and protecting me."

O'Neill received God's love, expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus. He died to set her free from the bondage of sin, to bring her into an intimate relationship with Himself. It's the one relationship that will last forever. In Matthew 28:20, found in the Bible, Jesus assures those who come to Him, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

God created us with a craving for love, because He is love. He's the only one who can truly satisfy our deepest longings.

In Charles Stanley's Handbook for Christian Living (Thomas Nelson), the author explains, "You and I were created so that God could express His love to us and we could respond with love."

O'Neill agrees. "If you are connected to the Author of Love," she explains, "then you can have a deep, abiding love for yourself, for your children, and for society, and really make an impact."

In January, the 56-year-old grandmother of four released her third book, You're Not Alone (HCI Publishing). Her company, Handshake Productions, is shooting and releasing a syndicated TV series called Living Forever-more, and her novel, Lifesavers, is currently being made into a film.

Meanwhile, O'Neill continues to testify that it is possible to find a love that lasts.

"Everybody comes to Christ in their own way, as unique as their DNA," she says. "It's never too late; you can never get to the bottom of God's love.

"As we fall down from the weight of the world … all God wants us to do is look up and see that His arms are wide open for us. There's no limit to His love."

Emily Wierenga is the associate editor of Living Light News.

Originally published in Living Light News, March 1, 2005.




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