DECEMBER 5: How do you want to be loved?
Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.*
If you enter “love” into a search engine, you will likely ping over 7 billion results (and counting). The word stirs up a lot of content. And why? What makes “love” one of the most often-cited concepts?
Wikipedia will tell you “love” is “a strong emotion of attachment.” Def Leppard will warn you that “love bites” and Frozen will tell you “love is an open door”. Whatever it is, the search for it costs us everything. The loss of it seems to destroy us.
You might know that the love we expect from God is like the ones we’ve felt before. Maybe we’re used to a permissive love—do whatever you want, be whatever you want, you’re accepted as-is. You’re never wrong. Everyone gets the ribbon. Everyone deserves a happily ever after. Maybe you expect God’s love to be a qualified love. “If” you act a certain way today, “then” God will love you. But maybe tough love is what you have coming to you. Love is just the wrapping paper around a workout plan, boot camp, a curriculum, a religion.
The functional image of God’s love for many (though you might never have brought yourself to say it) is something like spending your life playing outside with your friends—playing hide-and-seek, tag, skinning your knees, laughing. Then, every so often, God calls you back into the house. You reluctantly sneak away from the fun and go inside. You can call it “church” or “mass” or “synagogue” or a “quiet time” or an “accountability group”.
When in that space, you expect one of two things to happen: God’s either going to tell you about all the naughty things He caught you saying and wash your mouth out with soap or God’s going to tell you to sit down and take your medicine. “Can it be that grape flavored one?” you plead.
“No.” says God. “It’s going to be this bitter one, but it’s for your own good. It’s because…I love you.”
You wince and take your medicine, then run back outside as fast as you can. Your friends are wondering what happened, what’s going on inside the house. If any of them asks “Can we go in there?”
“Oh, you don’t want that. God loves you, sure, but it’s painful.”
The discovery of the real love of God begins with accepting that all other loves in our lives have, at best, been a glimpse and, at worst, a fraud.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
“Though I receive various forms of love (and emotions I’ve often called “love”), I want you, Father, to help me to stop expecting your love to me and for me to be in the same stratosphere. Free me from any fear I might still have of being loved by you.”
*The writings of Jeremiah, chapter 31, verse 3, emphasis mine