I've been thinking a lot lately about love and what it actually means to love and be loved. I fully embrace the truth that there is neither a better nor more perfect love than what God has for us, but what about the love between flawed human beings? Can we actually love without hurting? Give without taking? Move without being shaken? Or, are we destined to always feel with reservation and experience endless hurt by love's unprecedented ability to deliver heart shattering blows of force? In my own life, I've experienced love so strongly that my heart felt as though it may burst, and pain so jagged that I didn't want to live, both feelings of which resulted from love's impact. I once decided that if it be true love, pain simply could not follow, but then I'm reminded of the pain inflicted upon Jesus all in the name of love. As He endured torturous beatings and inexplicable pain during His crucifixion, it was love that kept Him steadfast on the cross as nails were driven into his body. In reality only true love knows real pain. What a tragically beautiful paradox that the most enjoyable facet of life is also probably the most painful. So, why bother searching for love if one of its major components is seemingly incomprehensible pain and suffering?
It seems from a young age, girls are planning their weddings and preparing for the day they meet "the one." From Barbie marrying Ken in a dollhouse to that first real date at 16 when dad reluctantly releases his little girl into the care of what he considers a hormonal and good for nothing teenage boy, love is in the air and hearts on the prowl. When the wedding day arrives later in time, nothing in the world compares to the intensity of love felt between the couple being joined and those blessed to witness. Instilled from birth within us all is the need to love and be loved, to feel and be felt. We make a life of pursuing it so fervently that we actually get in our own way, sometimes missing it all together. When we're early deprived of it, we look for it's comfort in all the wrong places. From addictions to promiscuity to self-loathing and despair, the power of love can both heal and cripple. No other force in the world can drive man to act so crazy, foolish, and hurtful, and yet also push him to such touchingly redeemable levels. Even the probability of pain only makes the phenomenon of love more mystifying and alluring.
So, what is love? Is it to you what it is to me? I remember doing a study in graduate school on the universality of love, but even then I was never satisfied with the findings. It has only been since entering into a relationship with God that I'm able to make sense of the true power behind love's existence, and the way in which it is administered by Him differs supremely from that of imperfect men and women. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives a sound description of what love is and is not, but I've found that I'm usually what it says not to be and rarely what it says to be.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Well, if I use this as a checklist, then I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm frequently impatient as well as unkind. I've been known to be envious, boastful, and also prideful. I've dishonored and even destroyed others in my own selfish quests, have been completely self-seeking, definitely easily angered, and let me tell you about the wrongs done to me! (but whose counting or keeping record?) I wouldn't say I delight in evil, but I've certainly had experiences where I hid rather than rejoiced with the truth. I could go on, but it's starting to get depressing. The point is, according to the biblical description above, I basically fall treacherously short in giving love if I am honest about who and what I am. At one time, I had a very real problem with this. "Well, given how impatient and rude and everything else that I can be, I guess I can just never know or give this kind of love," I reasoned in exasperation. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. First, Jesus has already given me the exact love described above, so it is possible for me to know it. It's also possible for me to give it as Jesus gave it, not because I'm without sin, but because He is without sin and will help and teach me to love as He loves. On our own, we can never love without also hurting, but with Him, we can love without inflicting pain onto those we love. We can do anything with His help (Philippians 4:13). We can even let go if that's what love calls us to do. I don't now, nor will I ever, love perfectly as Jesus did and still does, and that isn't my intention. My hope is simply to love better today than I did yesterday, and better tomorrow than I did today.
If you've been through something painful and have since decided that love isn't worth the gain, take a step back into the arms of God and let Him show you what power lies within love. Love doesn't only hurt, it heals. If you've gone through a divorce and don't know whether you'll ever feel love again, ask God to show you His love. It will restore hope into your heart. If you've made so many mistakes and don't feel worthy to be one of love's recipients, you should know that you're already a recipient of the most powerful love there is. Your mistakes were carried away and buried long before you ever made them. There is a very real power in love, both the love that gives and the love that receives. If you don't know whether or not you've ever experienced true love, ask God today to show you what love is; it's everything that went into creating you. It's why you're here, and it's who you are. Let the power of God's love transform you today. Don't ask the question of "why bother looking for it if it only causes pain;" ask yourself why not to look for it.
"We are all born for love; it is the principle of existence and its only end" -- Benjamin Disraeli
Image taken from www.benafia.wordpress.com
YouTube video taken from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ChOq3CYtHY