It is a romantic idea that we should receive unconditional love. A foolish one too. We want to believe that at least one person on the planet would love us in that way. This is a trap and we do well when we break free from its stranglehold. Every one has their breaking point with another person.
An aging pastor told me an interesting story from his youth. One of his professors asked him what was his escape hatch from his marriage? The young pastor replied, “I have no escape hatch. I am committed to my wife for life!” The professor replied, “You are deluding yourself. Every one has an escape hatch. What’s yours?” Upon reflection, the young pastor realized his professor was right. By admitting this truth, he freed himself from temptation in time of crisis. Fifty-five years later, he is still happily married.
The pastor never did tell me what his escape points were. I didn’t need to know because I already know. Adultery. Drug and alcohol abuse. Financial disaster. Betrayal. False accusations. Violence and verbal abuse.
What is your escape hatch from the relationships that matter most to you? Many parents believe they would never abandon their child. Yet the prisons are full of aging men who receive nary a visitor. Love is not unconditional.
Perhaps no greater example of this truth is the apostle Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night he was arrested, after the Last Supper. Under the pressure of losing his own life, he denied knowing Jesus three times. Wouldn’t you and I have done the same?
If we can accept that human love is conditional, can we imagine that God’s love is unconditional? When disease, accident or a crime strikes and we lose a child, a spouse or suffer a life-altering loss, is God loving us? We rarely receive it in that way, yet the Bible teaches us to trust and believe that God is love (1 John 4:8). If God is love, then he is not fear or anxiety or depression. These must come from somewhere else, but not from God.
St. Paul wrote, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12) We cannot know in this life the mystery of God’s love. We can only trust his word and his Amazing Grace. “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.”
Singer Laura Story captures this view of God’s love in her song, Blessings. “What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?” I do believe that.
Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Sometimes, it happens that a person gives something at great personal cost to another so that the other may gain at no cost to themselves. No where is this demanded more than in marriage. When I receive such a gift, I truly feel loved. Most amazingly, when I give this gift to another, after the pain subsides, I feel God’s love swell. May He swell within you today.
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