Lessons in Love
The first time I thought I was in love was can be traced back to Kindergarten. There was a boy on my baseball team I was drawn to. I remember blushing hardcore when my family mentioned his name. I even sustained an injury on the field (I was hit in the arm with the ball) because my focus was on the first baseman and not the play at hand.
These crushes sprung up throughout the years until I landed full on in a puddle of what was clearly true love. I chalked those experiences of my past up to childish infatuations, because now I was in it for real. At the ripe old age of 16 I had said the words to a boy and meant it with all my sweet, naive heart.
It was not a fleeting feeling and in my inexperienced mind, that intense emotion was surely enough to last us our entire lives! Brace yourself, dear reader, as I give a tiny peak into my past.
The boy and I were inseparable. The spark of “love” turned into a flame…and then a wildfire that demolished everything I thought I knew about love. After graduation and before college, we got married. As God as my witness, I believed what we had was the realest love to walk the earth. Oh to be young, innocent, and so blissed out on the feeling (wrongly defined as love) that I could not picture a world where the life I was living could go sour.
The details of the undoing are not important, but suffice to say infidelity is one way to sober up a woman drunk on good feelings. After two years of marriage I was a 20-year-old divorcee. Disillusioned and wounded beyond my wildest imagination, I sat broken at the feet of Jesus and have been walking out a lesson in love ever since. I would like to share with you a few things I have learned in the decade-and-a-half since my day of reckoning.
Love is not a feeling.
At least not the type of love Jesus is talking about when He commands us to love God or others. I wish our English language had more commonly used terms for the feelings experienced above. The little crush I had in Kindergarten or even the feelings I first felt toward my high-school-boyfriend-turned-first husband wasn’t Godly love in the beginning. It was akin to eros which is a passionate love, emotion driven. The problem with terming that love is when that feeling fades, we think that love is gone, and many of us do not know how to rekindle that feeling. Thus, we move on to find it in someone else only to have it wane there too. If love is a feeling, God would not be who He claims to be.
In Ezekiel 20, God is speaking to Ezekiel and giving accounts of the times that Israel has rebelled. He uses this statement a number of times:
“I threatened to pour out my fury on them…” (Ezekiel 20:8, 13, and 21, New International Version)
“But I didn’t do it, for I acted to protect the honor of my name.”
The character of God is just and steadfast. Not easily influenced by the feeling of offense or fury. Despite the steadfastness of our Lord, this passage is reassuring to see the God of the universe feel frustrated at the people He created not acting right (and all the parents said “amen!”). The difference is, He is not tricked by His feelings. He is one who acts upon choice and infallible truth. Which leads me to my next point:
God is Love (1John 4:8 NIV)
God is motivated purely and eternally by love. A force that is wrongly tied to warm fuzzies and strong attraction. Love is far superior than anything we can “fall into” or “fall out of”. Love is being fully known and seen for who we truly are and knowing we can appear in that space unashamed. Love is a force above all emotions and has the ability to exist and act based on the truth of what it is. God is love, and that means when we act in love we are operating in His realm.
We are called to love one another.
When we hear that phrase, most of us immediately begin to confuse how culture defines love with what God is commanding us to do. Here is the sticking point. You won’t find your cues from culture…even Christian culture. You will find the game plan in the Bible. Study how Jesus treated the outcasts and the ones who didn’t subscribe to His ideology. Look at how He treated people that everyone—from the deeply religious to the immoral yet prominent members of society—would have written off. That is love. He wasn’t worried about fixing them there on the spot or even making sure they knew His stance on how they lived their lives. He wanted to leave them feeling seen and loved by His father in Heaven, or at least highly curious about how He could be so kind. That is what we are supposed to do. Leave people better for having encountered us.
Redefining love has been an important journey for me, but how did Jesus do it? He gives us the secret. Stay tuned as I bring you Part 2 of my lessons in love: How to Love When you don’t Want to.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.