Musings on Love

I think in order to have your heart broken, you need to first love, right? You can’t be devastated by lack of love or broken trust if you did not love deeply first.

Therefore, on the surface level, if we were really thinking along self-preservation lines, we would avoid loving deeply in order to avoid the inevitable heartache.

And yet… we still yearn to love deeply. It’s like that desire is buried deep within who we are – it seems on some level that everyone longs for significant love…

So… that begs the question, when we love someone deeply, do we love them for their sake, or ours? What, if anything, has the power to change the degree to which we actually love? Why?

If you have a child, do you love that child because something within you needs to love? Or do you love the child because you know that child deserves and needs to be loved? Or do you love that child because you need them to love you back? If a child doesn’t love you back, does that affect the way you love them on a fundamental level, or just the way it’s expressed?

If you live your whole life believing someone loves you, what is it that makes you so quickly forget that when it looks like they are trying to hurt or inconvenience you? What changes in a person that gives them the ability to deeply hurt people they once loved? Or, do they love the same but suppress it purposefully in order to cause pain? Can you intentionally cause pain to someone and still love them? Can you maliciously cause pain to someone and still love them?

If your heart is broken, are you foolish or noble for continuing to love? At what point might that change? If we stop loving, is it for our sake, or for theirs? If we keep loving, is it for our sake, or for theirs? To what degree are we responsible for continuing to love those who consistently cause us pain but are in ‘positions’ where love is expected (parents, children, …)? Does choosing to pull back mean we are harming a relationship if they’ve already pulled back themselves? Can choosing to continue to love harm a relationship more?

Is it harder to stop loving, or to begin loving again?

If you continue to hope for restored relationship, is it easier to continue loving, or to start again once things start looking up? Which is better for you in the long run? Which is better for them?

Does pulling back cause bitterness to fester in our hearts? Or, does continuing to love do so?

If we love because we need to love, does it matter how the other person feels or responds? Why?

If we love because we want the other person to feel loved, do we only show love in ways they appreciate?

If we love because we need to be loved back, do we continue to love when we get nothing back?

There are, no doubt, countless times love makes our lives more difficult, and there are times love makes their lives more difficult. Knowing how to love best is probably one of the most challenging recurring issues we face in life… How to show love without spoiling. How to show trust without being naive. How to show confidence without downplaying wise council.

It isn’t easy to love. Society makes it seem that way. I think it’s easy enough to show love; we all know what it looks like to love someone. And it’s easy enough to call affection, care and enjoying someone’s company ‘love’. But to really love someone… that is much more complex and challenging thing. It requires thought and energy, constant attention, and something deeper than we realize to keep it going.

If love were surface level, I really don’t think we’d bother. It’s too hard, and it has the potential to hurt too much.

I wonder if our desire to love is evidence of the fact that we were made in the image of God. If God placed eternity in our hearts and gave us the drive to search for ‘more,’ did he also place this desire to love and be loved in our hearts, too?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this makes a lot of sense. We say a lot that God’s love is so great we cannot even fathom it, but I think God designed us with this love deep inside us to give us a glimmer of understanding of how he loves – to help us understand him better despite the fact we cannot fully get our heads around the fullness of his love.

I have seen parents filled with love for their children have to make some very difficult decisions about how to continue loving their children best. Sometimes that’s been holding them close, and sometimes that’s been letting them go. While the outward actions of these people loving look different, the love within is constant.
I have seen people both intentionally and inadvertently hurt, and continue to love regardless, though again, the way that love looks varies from situation to situation.

In our humanness, we are constantly faced with the challenge of regulating our sinful nature and deciding how best to respond to those who hurt us in ways that coincide with the underlying love. Sometimes the result may not look like love to everyone looking on, but we know within ourselves that it is.

In God’s sovereign perfectness, he does not have to struggle against a sinful nature to know how best to love us. He loves with perfect love and acts in ways that always fall in line with that. He knows what we need most even if we don’t (or don’t agree, or don’t want it).

When we love, even in the most pure way, we are loving with a tiny, imperfect and humanized version of True love, of God’s love. It also follows, then, that if God is capable of deeper love, he is also capable of deeper heartache than we can conceive. And yet, he continues to love because it is an essential element of his character.

Just like the teenager who thinks his parents don’t love him because he can’t have his own way, I think when we are tempted to look at God and say, ‘how can this be if you really love?’, we need to remember that we are only operating with a tiny understanding of what love really is.

God is infinitely just, and in order to show love, he must also show justice. Mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption, … So many elements to God’s love that we have only an inkling of – we see only the shadow of these things on earth, and do not have imaginations big enough to fathom these things in their fullest reality as God lives them. And yet, just because we don’t fully understand them doesn’t mean they don’t exist in a fuller state. And because we don’t understand them, we can’t presume to judge God based upon our glimpses of shadows of values he created.

Realizing how awesome and complicated real love is in a human context leaves me in awe of God. While I sit here on earth struggling to figure out the answers to the above questions, God sits in heaven with all of the answers already, loving each and every person perfectly, showing it to each person in the perfect way, even if it doesn’t seem like it, or if they are choosing to ignore it, with his heart breaking in the resulting grief and bursting with the resulting joy.

When we talk about God “being” love, we usually mean that in our small understanding of love – all positive and affectionate. The reality is even better than that – he loves us in his understanding of love, which is much more complicated and not as rosy Sunday-schoolish, but is better in the long run…

Why does God love? I don’t know. Does God need to love? I don’t know. Does God need to be loved? Again, I don’t know. But I know that because God loves, I have hope. And I know that because God gave each of us the desire to love, he must have thought it was important for us to do so.

May we continue to grow in our understanding of the ways in which God loves; our appreciation for the fullness of grace, justice, mercy, love and redemption; and our ability incorporate these values into the way we love others, ourselves and God.

“Let justice and grace become my embrace.”
~ Inside Out (Joel Houston)

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