For the past few weeks, my brain hasn’t been able to escape this loop:
Is it brave or stupid to love relentlessly and with your whole self?
I no longer have my usual, instantaneous reply. I’ve always believed that love begets love, but loving people well has repeatedly brought pain for me to bear alone instead.
This defeat and smothering hurt never feels any less intense. It makes me want to be more careful, be less emotional, and not be so quick to trust. But even just thinking about those cautionary actions feels utterly foreign to me. I don’t know how to not do those things; I don’t know how to restrain the most inherent and passionate parts of myself.
And it is here, in this emotional pain and stubborn acceptance, that I’m reminded of how I’ve been made and what I value in myself: the gift and power I’ve been given to love with abandon, recklessly and wholeheartedly at any cost, because it flows naturally from my heart without any real effort on my part.
Ultimately, this love in my heart that causes me all sorts of joys and problems urges me to return back to its Source. The ultimate Love that will forever renew my broken and emotionally-overwhelmed heart. The Love that will never let me go, no matter how many loves I have to let go of myself.
The prophet Jeremiah, paraphrased in the Message version, speaks of the steadfast Lover like this:
“I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again.”
This capacity to love, which I’ve often seen as a burden of oversensitivity and perpetual self-destruction lately, is probably brave and stupid. It often doesn’t logically make sense. But it’s been affirmed repeatedly that I can’t change the way I love people when it is the gift God has given me to make this place feel a little bit more like the Perfect Place God created for us. This capacity to love, sacrifice-filled and all-consuming, is sacred—for it is not an aspect of my human self, but a tiny, tiny part of Jesus’ heart that’s been put into mine. It also means that no matter how many times limited, broken love breaks us, the Lord will restore us, healing the brokenness, and building us up with wholeness and bravery like never before.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the connection between suffering and love like this in the letter to the Romans (ch. 5):
“Let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
To answer my own personal question, it’s been made clear to me that our gifts to love deeply in a vulnerable, overly-trusting, and often stupid way, exist because of the hopeful hearts that the Lord’s love has created in us. Thus, our hearts expect to find that same love in other people, while we are also bringing God’s love to those people. Whether we are loved the same way in return, despite the suffering, is often irrelevant (except in abusive and traumatic situations–to be clear: we are not called to put ourselves in constant danger, trauma, & mistreatment from others). We’re gonna love and love and keep loving no matter the hurt it might bring to us sometimes, because God’s own love and Spirit is sustaining us and renewing us day by day to live according to our given purpose of radical, true Love.
Thanks be to God for the gift of being able to live loved, for perfect Love casts out all fear and pain and betrayal and injustice and brokenness. What an honor to be given the ability to steward a gift that will never make sense to the rest of the world, but is constantly transforming it in small but significant ways. Thanks be to God. Amen. Amen. Amen.