Choosing to love is a decision to be made without expectation of reciprocation. This is a love story from my personal journey.
Most of us have spoken the words “I love you” many times over the course of our lifetime. There are many different types of love . Perhaps we would save ourselves confusion if we simply asked for clarification when we hear those words spoken to us! Love is far more complex than the romance and intimacy version “eros.” Love is ultimately a gift one person chooses to give another, whether or not it is rejected or reciprocated.
My dad was the first person who demonstrated the profound meaning of love through action. He was the 10th of 11 children, so his ability to show love had nothing to do with his ability to lavish me with material possessions. Through his story telling, giving of his time, gentle touch and comforting after a childhood injury, piggyback rides, defending and providing for my safety, he showed me a love story in small intangible ways. I always knew I held a special place in his heart. I also knew I could unconditionally trust my daddy with my whole heart. He was my childhood protector and “knight.” My dad exhibited a love story of the natural affection a parent has for their child.
As I grew older and became a young adult, I experienced a disconnect between those outside of my own family who said they loved me, but whose actions failed to demonstrate that love. Suddenly the words “I love you” became twisted into deceptive, hollow words that had no value whatsoever. This deceptive counterfeit love became not only conditional but temporary and revocable.
Real love should never result in brokenness or dishonor of the other person. Love is not a consuming fire that leaves the one who is loved in ashes. Love should not cause pain or result in drama or destructive behavior. Rather love should build up the other up and result in joy.
Sadly, some have spent a lifetime in pursuit of love that seemed to evade them at every turn. What then, does it mean to love and why is it important to be able to extend love to others? I think God’s word demonstrates a love story toward each of us far better than I ever could.
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I mentioned earlier that love is an action word. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Do you know someone who would actually die for you regardless of whether your behavior was good or bad? I do. His name is Jesus.
John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Isn’t the insecurity of fear really a lack of trust in the other person? Lack of trust comes from a place of brokenness.
If you truly know how to extend love to another person, then you are bearing fruit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
How is this a love story from my personal journey? “I have been persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:9
On my journey, I have been loved with empty words and actions. I have been “loved” as a consuming fire and left to gather up the broken pieces and sweep up the ashes of what was left. I have given of myself and been left a broken, wounded person afraid to trust and love again. Over a period of many years I finally forgave myself for my own mistakes and errors in judgment. I was angry with myself for choosing to accept crumbs rather than the feast God had prepared for me. I mourned the wasted years and broken trust. Where, I wondered, was this man by God’s own design who knew how to love and to demonstrate love to me? My Daddy had taught me about this kind of love, so surely it still existed!
Do you recall the movie “Forrest Gump?” Remember the day Forrest decided to start running? He ran without a purpose or destination in mind. He amassed a huge following of other people willing to run aimlessly alongside him. Just as suddenly as Forrest decided to stop running, so did I. One day I decided I had run long enough and had lived as a broken person long enough. I finally decided to allow God to reassemble the broken pieces of my heart and restore me to wholeness. It had only taken me 26 years in the healing process!
What happens when love dies or when you realize you were given counterfeit love versus the real deal? Does the love you once freely offered then turn to hate or scorn for the one who rejected your love? The answer is: only if you allow it. We can choose to allow God’s unconditional love to transform and restore us from a place of brokenness to a place of wholeness. First we have to release the crumbs and hurt we are holding onto with clinched fists, give it to God and allow Him to heal us.
I have now made the choice to love—even without reciprocation. When I say “I love you” I truly mean it. My friends hear these words from me and know I mean it through my actions. I have learned to love the person and the heart and soul of the person, rather than the gift wrapping on the exterior. If that person rejects the love I offer (whether it is the love for a friend or something deeper), then that is their choice not to accept the gift I offer them.
I am finally strong enough and confident enough to walk away from any relationship that is not fashioned by God’s design and still remain a whole person. No longer will I leave broken pieces of my heart and my life strewn behind. That is a love story for me, a gift from my Heavenly Daddy whose capacity for love far exceeds anything my Earthly Daddy could ever give. I choose to love, knowing that giving love to another doesn’t diminish me, but enriches my own life in the process.
What about you? Have you ever known someone who simply could not say the words “I love you” and the best they could say is “I care for you”? I’d love to hear your comments!
Pam Baker, RN
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