Friday, July 1, 2011

Love, Needs, and a Promise

One of the hardest things in the world is when you realize that someone's love is not unconditional. Harder still is when you realize that your actions were the cause of the loss of it. Looking at these realities from an earthly perspective will crush us in despair, because what is life for if not to love and be loved? And what hope do we have if we are unable to maintain that love?

Henry Nouwen writes, "Forgiveness means forgiving someone for not being God, for not fulfilling all of my needs." This is so true... We live in a culture of "my needs" and "how can I get my needs met"? We are angry when someone does not fulfill our needs, and we think healthy relationships mean meeting each other's "needs." The problem is that no one on earth can fulfill this simple expectation. No one can love always unconditionally, and no one can fill even one need of yours completely, including your need for love. What are we to do then? If the possibility of human love and fulfillment is where our hope lies, that is a very depressing statement.

I've been through a journey recently in relation to these ideas. A few years ago God began to reveal to me how fearful I was of loving others on a deep level. My history had taught me that I would always eventually have to leave, so it was better not to become dependent on someone else's love. I was "strong" and independent, always maintaining a certain distance. I did not really need anyone. So God began to challenge me to love in a real way, to be vulnerable and allow love to hurt sometimes... and boy did it ever... I let myself love and need others in a way I never had before.

Unfortunately, this was only a part of the journey. Somehow I began putting so much hope and effort into these new relationships that they became my world, and I began to really depend on them for my happiness. I soon discovered that those I loved sometimes did not love me back; I experienced imperfect love and pain even from those who did love me; and I realized just how selfish we all really were. I was so confused! I thought God had led me to love more deeply and to allow myself to depend on others more, and now this very love was destroying me. My reaction was to go back to my old ways of not needing anyone, but I couldn't. I knew that wasn't God's picture of love and relationships. So here is where I have landed, and what I am trying to do...

Love, dependency and needs are three very different things and are met and lived in very different ways. What I thought was just sincere love was really an intense desire to have my needs met in another person and depending on them for that. It wasn't always that way. It began just by letting myself be loved and to love in return, but when I got a taste of that I wanted more! As in everything, when that love became the focus, when I began to hope in those relationships for my security, fulfillment and significance, I set myself up for disappointment and pain. Though the people I loved are some of the most loving and amazing people I know, they could not love me and give me worth in the deep ways my soul longs for. This is because I was created this way.

All of the created world is a temporary provision meant to point us to an eternal reality. I eat food, but I soon hunger again. I rest, but I am soon tired again. I am loved, but only imperfectly. The greatest love story in the world would not satisfy every heart desire, because the desire in my heart was put there to be met in God alone. Human love is a beautiful reflection of God's own love for us, and it gives a taste of what a relationship with God is like. My soul longs for that... but I must remember that it is incomplete and that what I really long for is God himself.  I love people, but I depend on God for my love. I serve people and need God for my security and wholeness. At times he may use people to provide in part for those needs and to remind me what he is like, but he is more than enough. The more I know him, the more I will love him and know his love for me that satisfies that deepest part. This in turn gives me the freedom to love without demanding, without controlling, without possessing. I can just love and trust God with the rest.

The hard part is that we are in a broken world, and though through Christ we have been reconciled to God, there is a sense in which we still experience him only in part. There was a time in which I was frustrated that God was telling me to find my satisfaction in him, and yet, try as I might, I was never fully satisfied. I knew there had to be more. I Corinthians 13:12 says that now we see only in part, but when Christ returns we shall see fully:"12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."  Peter says to put our hope fully in the grace we will receive at the appearing of Jesus (I Peter1:13). Yes, God is all we need. In reality, in all truth, when we see Jesus face to face NOTHING else will matter. Every need will be met and every desire of the heart fulfilled, but until then we wait patiently for the fulfillment of that promise. We receive with joy, now, the presence of his Spirit in us, his love poured out into our hearts, his comfort.  At the same time, if it seems like we have not fully experienced the reality of God's presence, power, joy and satisfaction, it is because we will not until we see him face to face. The dissatisfaction is not because you need more love, more sex, more money, more power, more approval... It is because your soul longs for God himself. Let us run towards him now, pressing on towards the goal of knowing him and the depths of this love that is the only true satisfaction. We experience his love in part now through the indwelling of Christ, but then we will be one with him completely...wrapped up in the glory of his grace, beauty, holiness and love, forever and ever, amen.