I sat in the corner of that L-shaped couch much longer than I originally intended. I hadn’t planned on staying at all, not that night. I had too many thoughts racing through my head, and none of them were the good, uplifting, God inspired thoughts that I was supposed to be thinking. The thoughts I was thinking were more like, “See, you shouldn’t have trusted them, you can’t trust anyone”, or “This is what always happens”, or the ever so popular, “Never again. I’m never opening up to anyone ever again”. I won’t ask you to raise your hand or anything (mostly because I can’t see it 😬) but I can bet that many of you have felt the same way. I felt stupid for thinking any of those things, but I couldn’t help it. Why? Because at that time in my life, all that I knew was rejection. I’d been down the treacherous road of constantly giving love to people who were probably never going to love me back. Not because I knew that they were going to reject me. Each time, I sincerely hoped that this would be the time when someone finally loved me. And it wasn’t because the love I was giving wasn’t genuine, or that I wasn’t giving enough of it. It wasn’t even because there was something wrong with me. It all came down to one very simple thing, they didn’t know how. Friends, family members, guys, didn’t matter. I was on a vicious cycle of loving people, who didn’t know how to receive it, and certainly didn’t know how to love me back…(not that I would have known how to receive it either.)
How do you receive something, when you don’t even know what it looks like? (Imagine an invisible football, flying through the air, that you are supposed to catch. Got me?) @LauraPLytle #truelove
Of course I didn’t know what the problem was back then, so after years and years of that vicious cycle, I did what any self-preserving human being would do. I closed myself off to everyone. I had friends, and people I would hang out with, but I entered these relationships with the understanding that at some point, they were probably going to reject me, so I didn’t let any of them get close enough to really do so. They probably thought that they were close enough, I may have even given them just enough personal information to reinforce that. But when it came to my heart, no one was getting anywhere near that.
Along with that, I adopted a very firm mindset; if anyone wanted to know me at all, they were going to have to find me in the emotional cave that I was hiding in, pursue me at every given opportunity, and shower me with love that I certainly wasn’t going to return, until they proved to me that they were worthy of my loving them in return. (A view that many of us have long sense placed on God’s love for us.)
I had only been saved for a few months at that point, so I had quite a bit to learn. But the thing that I learned that night on the L shaped couch, that was something that would change my life forever. It was a Bible study that I’d been going to for a couple months. And that night we’d been talking about family and relationships, (both things that I didn’t always know how to talk about). It wasn’t like my family wanted me around anyway, and besides, they were never going to forget who I used to be. I’d met Jesus, He had changed me, I KNEW that. But they didn’t, and I had a feeling that they really didn’t want to.
It was just a normal night as far as I was concerned. I wasn’t expecting the leader to look at me. And I definitely wasn’t expecting him to say what he said.
“Laura, what if they really don’t love you?”
He paused, and I thought strongly about getting up and walking out. He was talking about my family, my friends, all of the people who had ever hurt me, everyone that I loved. He was reminding me of their rejection. What was his point? I knew that they didn’t love me, only Jesus loved me. Only Jesus would or could ever love me. I was to “damaged” for everyone else. I was too much, or not enough. I knew it all too well. I tried to figure out why he would bring that up now. But then he read this….
” Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)”
“Are they any of those things, to you?”
I wasn’t exactly calming down at this point. I was certain that my olive skin was turning more of a bright shade of crimson. He was asking me to answer the same questions that I’d been unable to answer my entire life. What was wrong with me that my own family didn’t want me? Why was I so unlovable that no one loved me? No one that I loved ever loved me back, why? I could feel the tears forming behind my eyes, and my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. But then he kept going…
“They don’t KNOW HOW to love you. There is nothing wrong with you. Did you hear me? Laura, there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! They just don’t know what love really is, so they don’t know how to love you. GOD loves you.”
I didn’t say much in response, if anything. I wasn’t exactly sure what had just happened, but I knew that something had. When I got home I re-read 1 Corinthians 13, over and over and over. Then God revealed something to me. God is love. So if someone doesn’t really know God, if they don’t know Love, then how can they truly love another person? And within that revelation came another revelation; God’s love was never based on our love for Him. He has always loved us, and will always love us, whether we love Him back or not. The only way that we can love Him, is in response to His love for us. Period.
Over the next few months I began to notice something…I was no longer loving with the stipulation that someone HAD to love me in return. Love is a gift that is given freely. It can’t be bought, or earned, and it does not demand to be loved in return. To truly love, is to love without condition. And to truly know God’s love, is to be complete in Him, knowing that no matter what, He loves you. Once I really got this revelation, I was able to stop expecting love from people who didn’t know how to love me. But it didn’t mean that I stopped loving them. In fact I asked God to help me love them the way that He loves them. Sometimes it was up close and personal, and sometimes it was silently through prayer. But over time I learned that it was always given freely, and never demanded in return.
Now don’t get me wrong, you need to GUARD YOUR HEART. Not everyone should have access to it. And I am all for being pursued, especially when it comes to my future husband. But unless you’re planning on marrying a creature like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, or you want a bunch of bats to befriend you, I don’t suggest the emotional cave route. I also don’t recommend the stage 5 clinger method (aka: Don’t stalk people. Stalking is creepy…and again, love does not demand it’s own way.
When I love, I love very extravagantly…my friends, my family, and my future husband. If I miss them, I tell them, even if I miss them twice a day. If I want to encourage them, I do it, I don’t stop to question whether they need said encouragement. Who the heck doesn’t need encouragement? If I want to talk to them, I call. I don’t sit for an hour thinking “They’re probably too busy”, or “Maybe they don’t want to talk to me.” If I want to see them, I make it happen. I don’t use the excuse of “I’m too busy”, even though my schedule leaves very little room for ‘me time’, let alone ‘them time’. If something is truly important to you, you will find a way, and you will make time for it. Period. If I want to get them a gift, I do it, because who doesn’t like getting gifts? See all of those excuses stem from rejection, (unless of course you don’t actually love them, or care about them, which would lead me to ask why you are thinking about them while reading this blog post, then. Nevermind.) My point is, that if you truly love and care about someone, then what is stopping you from telling them, and showing them, and making sure that they know that you do? There’s only one key to remember and and the rest is very simple. I never do so just to “get something in return “. Why? Because God set me free from rejection, and now I love with my arms wide open, not just my hands wide open waiting to receive something.
Some may think it’s “too much” , but that isn’t a problem with me, that is a problem with them. If someone goes running the other way, they obviously don’t belong in my life. There is no such thing as too much love, if it is real love that we are talking about. True love always responds to true love, eventually. The problem is that most people don’t know what true love really is, because they don’t truly know who God really is. Obsession is not love. Control is not love. Lust is not love. Fear is not love. Perversion is not love. Selfishness is not love. And I could go on and on about what isn’t love. But the Bible is very clear on what love IS. It is “patient and kind. It’s not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. It never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful. It endures through every circumstance.” If it isn’t those things, then it isn’t love, because if it isn’t those things, then it isn’t God.
Understand that people rejecting the love that God has put in my heart to show them, it might hurt sometimes, but don’t let it harden your heart. I don’t. My heart is in God’s hands and guarded by Him. There are places that few people have access to. I choose to love those people excessively, and make sure that they know how I feel about them. And I’ve allowed God to teach me how to love all people like my Jesus, tell them about Him, help them when I am able, and share His healing love with them, I will do that always.
Jesus didn’t say to love with conditions, He just said to love. But first you have to know what love really is. What does it really look like? It looks like Jesus. Ask Him to show you, and He will! @LauraPLytle #truelove