To love is to feel pain…you cannot love without suffering. The two go hand in hand like fire and heat.
Look at the cross. Can anyone say that true love does not involve agony; does not demand sacrifice; does not require the very life of the bearer?
Love comes with a price, but the outcome is far greater than the cost; for love gives birth to life. This realization of the cost of love however, causes many of us to run and hide ourselves away under shields of self-preservation. It becomes too much for us to bear and thus we forget that loving someone isn’t about us, but about the beloved. The one whom we profess to care for deserves to be loved for their own sake. Too often though, “love” is given for the sake of receiving something in return. It is a terrible tragedy when those of us who profess to follow Christ are too afraid to abandon ourselves as he did to the Father and love as Christ loved. We need to be the gift to others instead of taking the gift for ourselves.
“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” ~Bell Hooks
I see in myself an unquenchable need to be loved by others. To be needed, appreciated, and cared for. These are natural needs that point toward my need for God however, it often gets twisted into something grotesque and selfish, and the need becomes something that makes me needy. Instead of seeing others as person’s to be loved and appreciated for their own sake I use them to my own advantage and extract the personal satisfaction that I desire from them. Love for the sake of being loved is not love, it is merely an imitation. Therefore, it is crucial to learn how to be alone with ourselves. When we can be alone and confront our deepest insecurities with Christ by our side we can better live outside of ourselves. We learn how to be a gift to those around us instead of trying to grasp at others for the satisfaction we cannot find within. If we seek our fulfillment in other people we will never be satisfied. So being alone with God enables us to love without selfish motives because we are filled with the source of true authentic love.
In welcoming the moments of solitude as opportunities to reflect on our lives and examine our souls we allow ourselves to grow spiritually instead of grasping for human comforts. This points us back to the source of all our hope and we, in a sense, rediscover the love that God has for us. We then can give of ourselves more freely to those who need our love. By choosing to emulate Jesus and His love for us we pick up our own crosses and accept the pain that comes with putting others before ourselves. With that pain comes joy. For in so doing we are fulfilling the call that God has placed on our lives.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” ~John 15:12
“Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” ~ Ephesians 5:1-2
I am still learning what it means to love “as Christ loved”. Those selfish desires still wage war in me. The tendency to give for the sake of receiving is so ingrained in my heart that some days it takes real practice to change my mentality. When something kind I have done goes unnoticed it is my natural inclination to be hurt and reluctant to be kind to that person in the future. But true love does not seek it’s own. Christ laid down His life for people who hated Him. Am I willing to do the same?
So this is the challenge. This is the call upon our lives: To Love. We have been called to be a Gift of self to others.
Be the Gift.