This is a subject that I have given much thought over the past few months. It is the reason for this blog. I have gone through a lot of big transitions in my life this year that have forced me to reevaluate how I live and how I (fail to) give love to others every day. As we come upon a new year, I want to be sure that I have a full understanding of what Jesus said is the most important commandment: to give love.
This year I left a seven year long relationship. It was difficult. I had hard nights, and sometimes I had hard nights with hard liquor. But despite being difficult, it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
See, just before breaking up with this girl, I had been thinking about proposing to her. I had a ring picked out and I was even brainstorming how I was going to pop the question. But as college graduation crept closer and I thought about what the rest of my life would be like, I started to realize that continuing a relationship with this girl was not what I wanted. But why?
Why? I mean, I was with her for so long already, right? You can't be with somebody for that long unless you really love them...right?
But love is not based on how long you have been with a person. It is not based on how much fun you have with a person. It is not based on your sexual attraction or chemistry or fireworks or romantic feelings. Love is not a feeling! I am going to say that again because the biggest misnomer in our culture claims that the opposite is true. LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!
I ended my relationship with the girl I planned to marry because I realized that I did not love her. I had all the other things: feelings, attraction, fun experiences, etc. But I was not giving her love.
How do we love then? How could I go seven years through a relationship without loving someone? Don't get me wrong, there were occasions when I loved this woman! It just wasn't my main focus in our relationship. Our relationship, for me (and most likely for her as well for that matter), was based on what I could get out of it. I was with this woman because of how she made me feel. I was willing to commit to her because I wanted to keep her around to make myself feel good. I gave her my love with the expectation that she would give something back to me in return. But real love has no expectations.
Which brings me to my main point. I have been single now for several months. It is the first time that I have been single as an adult. It is an experience that has taught me so much about love, emotions, sexuality, and marriage and what those things mean in the context of living as a Christian. My most recent lesson is that REAL LOVE HAS NO EXPECTATIONS.
See, I recently met a girl. A very attractive girl. At first I wasn't that interested in her, because I know that there are attractive girls all around the world. Plenty of fish in the sea, blah, blah, blah... Besides, one of the first lessons I learned about love this year is that love is not based on physical attraction. But the more time that I spend with this person, the more interested I become in her. I have fun whenever she is around, she is caring to her friends, she loves her family, and she seems to have a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything a Christian man could ask for! Only one problem... she doesn't exactly express the same interest in me that I have in her.
At first I was okay with it. Actually, due to circumstances in my life right now, I'm not looking to get into a serious relationship with anyone anyway. There is a chance that in the near future I could be going overseas for two years, and I don't want to put anyone through the agony of having to make the choice to wait for me to return. But like I said, the more time I am around this person, the more interested I become!
So I came up with a plan. It was when I was listening to Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross sing 'I'm gonna make you love me'. By the way, never base your decisions off of love songs. Bad idea. Oh, what was my plan you ask? I just said it! I decided that I would do everything for this girl that girls want men to do for them. I was going to make her love me. Luckily I thought about this before putting my plan into action and realized that this would be really stupid. Love can't be taken! It can be received, but never taken forcefully from someone. But the beautiful thing is that on the flip side of the coin, love can also be given.
So I altered my plan. I plan to still do wonderful things for this girl. I plan to love her. But I plan to do it without the expectation that she will love me back. Girl, I'm gonna love you. Oh yes, I will. And I'm going to do it knowing that you probably won't love me back!
You see, God so love the world that he gave his only son to die for us so that if we believe in him we can have eternal life (John 3:16). And this love was given to us without the expectation that we could give anything back to God. He gave us his love as a free gift. The only thing that we earn from God is his wrath, because the wages of sin is death. But his gift to us is eternal life through his son (Romans 6:23).
In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of how to give love. Jesus gave his very life to save us. He died not only for his friends, but also his enemies. He died to save the very people who spit on him, mocked him, nailed him to a cross and killed him. A good man may give his life for his friends, but very few would be willing to die even for their enemies! "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)
Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice that has saved me, that you gave despite my sins against you. Help me to give the same love to others without expectations. Your love fills me up and I am an overflowing cup. Use me to pour out your same love onto others. Amen.