A Love Given Freely

I spent a lot of my time hustling for love. I could write a book full of ways that I have tried to earn love. It would be a very bad book, though. You would read it and cringe. Here is a small sample of ways I have attempted to earn love, but read these at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any vomiting or nightmares.

  • I sang “You Belong With Me” to a boy who already had a girlfriend. One that I was friends with.
  • I took ballroom dancing lessons in case a boy asked me to dance in Middle School.
  • I took tennis lessons for a boy that wasn’t allowed to hug me.
  • I started drinking coffee black to impress boys in college. (So brave!)

I have done hundreds of awkward, weird things to earn love. I still know a lot of people who are trying to earn love like me. A lot of you are incredible. You are usually beautiful, funny, and completely worthy of love.

I thought that maybe my problem was that I needed to get married so that I could always have someone to love me. Or maybe I needed a boyfriend so that people would know how likable I was. Or maybe I needed more friends so that people could pay more attention to me. I sometimes thought maybe, I just wasn’t worthy of love.

 

But there was always a flaw in these theories: Jesus. 

I had heard one thousand times that Jesus loved me deeply. That He was willing to die for me. That He chose me before anyone I knew was born.

But for some reason, that love never felt the way I wanted love to feel.

Did you catch that? If you did I am impressed, because it took me 21 years. That love never felt the way I wanted love to feel because love – true love, from the creator of love Himself – is not a feeling. 

It is a choice that spurs us to make similar choices. It all comes from one place. There was one model we should follow: God’s love for us. It wasn’t a love we had to ask for. It was a love given freely.

The key to being loved isn’t saying please, it’s saying thank you.

It’s recognizing that when we pour love into others, it is because God has filled our cups. It’s knowing that love isn’t ours to keep. It’s not a feeling we find. It’s a choice that chases us down for thousands of years until we are brought back home.

Now when I “feel loved”, I feel gratitude, joy, patient, kind – all of the things I was told that love could be. I don’t want to keep love for myself, I want to share it with those who don’t have enough. This is because when we know God’s love, we are able to become that same love. We are able to step into choosing Him and His people over ourselves. Love wasn’t cheap, but it is given freely.

 

Forget the Formula

When I was a young preteen I used to go to the McCracken County Public Library basically all the time. I was home-schooled so hanging at the library was the cool thing to do. I had read practically every single book in our small young adult fiction section. I was starting to think that I had read every single book ever written when one day out of sheer boredom I wandered into the young adult non-fiction section.

That was the day I discovered a whole new world. A world where instead of reading about cool guys and middle school romance, I could un-lock my own successful love life. I snuck over to the section to read American Girl book after American Girl book. I had finally found it. The wealth of knowledge and science and formulas that would help me understand how to have everything I had ever wanted.

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A lot of my present frustrations stem from my constant search for guaranteed formulas. Although, it feels silly now to put so much faith in those purple and pink books about how to tell if someone likes you, things haven’t really changed all that much for a lot of us. We still ask, what do I have to be/do/say/have before I can find love and connection?

I ask engaged couples how it feels to be in such a secure place of knowing that you are loved. I ask them how they knew and how they ended up in a place where they were “Ready To Commit”. I hear a lot of the same things. They stopped looking. They stopped waiting. They reached a place of completion and then boom, God gave them the love of their life.

This made me really scared. I had gone through a lot of periods of waiting. Sometimes I grew tired of waiting and impulsively liked some boys I knew were bad news. I have looked back on some seasons and thought, you know what, that makes sense. And it’s not like I don’t like a lot of the parts of being single. I can serve, live for God, and grow in him with absolutely no true outside commitments.

But there is a part of me that knows that this is not how things are supposed to be for me forever. I can be content, patient, and even whole in Christ. But I am not created for a life without love and connection.

I have fought with this a lot over the past few years. When it became clear that I was not getting married right out of college I was honestly thankful. There are a lot more pros than cons to starting my post-grad experience without a ring on my finger. But that doesn’t diminish the fear that I have.

Every time I tried to plug myself into the formulas I had seen, I knew things weren’t going to work that way for me. The avenues other people took to find love were not going to lead me to the right place. I did not know what to hope for or work towards.

I cannot and will not deny that I want to be married. I want to be married to a person who loves Christ more than anything, that serves with their whole life, and that shows me everyday how to love like Christ. That isn’t wrong. That is biblical. That feeling isn’t going away.

Not denying that longing is my version of the formula. That is still following God’s will. Not letting it consume me, but also not drowning it out to the point where I have a creeping anxiety that my desire is preventing me from connecting with God. Casting your anxieties, sharing your joy and your pain with the Lord does not mean that you suppress yourself and become an inactive protagonist in your own story.

Our lives, our stories, are a shared conversation between ourselves and God. We are giving ourselves to him and he is living in us. I can give my heart to heaven, but if I don’t invest love and care back into others in the world, then heaven never gets back to earth.

So if you are like me, let me remind you that God’s plan for our lives and love is much better than a formula. Just because it worked for your mom or your roommate doesn’t mean your story will be the same. Free yourself from the pressure to stop searching for connection. Come to God with every part of your heart. He knows you, and He won’t let you down.