How do you love?
If I asked you, “Who do you love?” I’m sure you could give me a list of the significant relationships in your life. Pondering these people probably brings up an assortment of feelings: gratitude, hilarity, joy, sorrow, longing, and maybe even regret. Some of the feelings associated with our past and present relationships have tenacious staying power. If you look closely, you may notice, a certain good or bad feeling has evolved into a way of thinking, a belief about your identity.
A while back, I knew God was asking me to offer love to someone who, as far as I could tell, didn’t particularly care about me. One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I sometimes doubt that people really care, which makes me feel like I’m not worth being cared about. So, you can see why God asking me to love someone who didn’t seem to care about me felt like a mean thing for Him to ask me to do. But God was not at all being mean. Instead, He was saying, “You are going to have to believe that I care for you, otherwise you will be unable to really love this person as I am asking you to.”
God knew I had read all the marginally helpful, “You Are Cared About, No Really, You Are!” books, so He had to sneakily put me in a situation where I would have to believe it. Much of the way I had “loved” before was tied to an unspoken, anxious need for the other person to prove they cared first. I realized the question, “Am I cared for?” was between God and I, and not between me and anyone else.
Sorting through this situation by praying and being in conversation with friends wiser than I brought me the epiphany that God was asking me to do this for two reasons (though I’m sure there are more I’ll never fully know). 1. To prove the point that loving someone is something I do unto God, not because they have made it a good deal for me, and 2. to heal me of any lingering feelings that I’m not worth being cared about.
People, like all other created things, can be powerful examples of God’s healing and love, but God is the only one who heals and who puts “loved” at the core of our being so we don’t go trying find it in the world.
When I started offering love in response to God’s leading, while not asking the other person to care first, our interactions became more-or-less free from my care-hunting. This incredibly healing experience allowed many beautiful things to transpire between me and the other person.
Jesus is the most amazing example of a person with an untangled identity. When He knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples, when He taught His disciples to no avail, when He didn’t respond to the enemy’s temptations in the desert, He showed us that love and service are offered gifts, not tactics for self-fulfillment or self-healing. Following God doesn’t require the participation of other people or even their capacity to understand the depth of faithfulness that relating to them in God’s way is requiring.
So, I ask you, where are you spending energy trying to get another person to do or undo what only God can? Where is God asking you to respond to Him alone, despite the complexity of another person or situation? God wants to heal you and give you what you may not even know you need. Let God give you cues for how He wants you to relate to others and then let Him respond to your love offering, no matter what how the other person responds to you. In letting God alone lead your relationships, you will walk the road to being untangled, free, and healed.
Flickr photo (cc) pixajen