“I love you.”
Three words that can be as deep and far-reaching as the starlit sky, and quite possibly the easiest and hardest thing for me to grasp and understand.
What is love? What does it look like? How do I love? And the hardest question, am I loved?
I desperately want others to love me – not just because I’m smart, or good, or funny, but because I’m me. In fact, I don’t want a love that is based on my success or performance, because I am only sometimes smart, not that good, and well…let’s just say “funny” is in the ear of the beholder.
The love I long to have and experience is one that exists despite my failings, despite my imperfections, and despite my golden moments. Can you love me no more and no less when I suck, and no more and no less when I am awesome? I am not confident that such a love can come from a human, but we do come close to it in our friendships and other committed relationships. And although I wish it were not so, such a love does not come from me – how many times have I withheld love or was bitter because of someone’s actions or behaviour towards me? How many times have you cut off a person because they did not treat you the way you believe you ought to be?
Yes, you should stand up for yourself and get out of unhealthy situations, but can you do that with mercy and forgiveness? Can you do that and still love the one who hurt you? I cannot. And more times than not, I don’t want to. But even as I write that, I know there is another way that has been shown to me, an unconditional love that has persisted in all time and will continue for all time.
The Bible declares that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). A sinner is someone who follows their own interests and desires rather than the interests and desires of God. I am a sinner because I constantly act on my own behalf and according to what I believe is right for me, rather than what is right in God’s eyes. And although I rejected God and was skeptical of his commands, he loved me and died for me, just as he loves you and died for you. He knows of all the ways I will fail him and all the ways I will honour him, and he loves me no more and no less in spite of it.
It is this unconditional and sacrificial love that you and I are made for.
His love for me persists in the same torrential outpouring in the times I am selfish, and in the times I am selfless. When I am hating or when I am kind, his message for me remains the same, written on the cross in living ink with nail-pierced hands:
“I love you.”
Do you feel like you are loved by others no matter what?
Do you sometimes have difficulty loving someone even though they hurt you?
Do you think it is possible that God loves you?