I intended it to. I want you to capture that feeling that hit your stomach when you heard that somebody is in love with somebody else (if you're anything like me). I want you to hold onto that feeling and remember it while you read this post.
Why did you feel that way? (And, by the way, that statement in the title is true, but I'll get to that in a minute.) Why does love capture our minds and emotions so violently?
I don't know, but, for the moment, just accept that it does. The reason I want you to hold on to that "excited gulp" feeling is because I'm about to tell you of a relationship that I'm in which may not meet your "ideals" of a romantic relationship, and I don't want you to get a disappointed feeling in your chest. Why not? Because I don't have that feeling! I love him immensely, and feel dizzy with emotions, and am supported by the underlying knowledge that this is real, and isn't dependent on my emotions, and isn't going away. When I tell you about this relationship in the next paragraphs, I don't want you to sigh and say "Oh; is that all?" Yes, yes, yes, it IS all!! Oh, I'm so happy! And so in love. So don't sigh. I forbid it! :) :) :)
Okay. Deep breath. (On my part, that is.) ...Where to begin?
Let me start by telling you about how I first starting learning what real love is. I suppose it all began the instant I entered the world; I learned that my parents loved me. I learned a lot about parental love quite rapidly, in fact; they protected me, fed me, clothed me, hugged me, and provided for everything a little baby needs. As I got older, they continued to take care of my physical and mental needs; that ranged from buying me a bunk bed to giving me an education.
Of course, being very young, I couldn't really analyze all this - I just accepted it, and loved them back, ...in a rather selfish, childish way. But I did love them. How could I help loving two people who were so good to me? As I got older, I learned that they did things for my good, and even when they deigned me certain pleasures, I loved them for it. I knew they were doing it because they cared.
But physical and mental needs are only half the needs a human being has. I also have spiritual and emotional needs.
Daddy and Mom knew they couldn't supply my spiritual needs, but they knew the One who could, so they pointed me to Him.
Emotional needs were - and are - partially met by my parents, but they are also met by dozens of people in my life; siblings, friends, teachers, other adults, grandparents, babies I cuddled...the list goes on.
When I entered my mid-teen years, I started to sense another emotional need that I hadn't had before; the longing for a different kind of love. Not parental love. Not sibling love. Not friendship. No, I was longing for the love of...a Lover.
I don't really need to explain that. You know what I mean. Someone who treasures me and protects and provides for me - not as one of many loved daughters, but as his one, his only, his precious, his beloved. Someone who longs to be intimate with me. A soul mate. Someone who thinks I'm beautiful and perfect.
But even then I didn't realize the huge difference between "kinds" of love. How could I? I knew the affections of a father, not a lover. In a vague way, I knew what I longed for, but I didn't know how different it was. I was too young. Too inexperienced.
But let me go back to my "spiritual needs."
I was nine years old, I believe, when God saved me. I remember the time of conviction before salvation; how miserable I was, realizing how dirty I was in His sight! It was awful. And when He saved me, I was so relieved. So thankful. So grateful. I wanted to kiss His feet. I wanted to wash them with my tears, and dry them with my hair.
My Christian life has been, and is, a wonderful time. Not that it has been filled with joy constantly, but it has been wonderful nonetheless, because it's been full of learning. I'm constantly learning new things. And I'm constantly being shown how good God is.
Much of the "joyless" times came from realizing what a sinner I am, and how deeply sin had already rooted in my heart before Christ saved me. It's amazing what nine years of abandonment to sin can do, even in a little girl. I've been blessed to be under the preaching of many godly men, who know it is their duty to preach the truth, not tickle men's ears. I knew from early on in my Christian walk that there is nothing good in me. God did not save me because of my own righteousness. I do not have the strength to do good. He is as different from me as He could possibly be. He's unlike anything I know. He's unique. And I am vile. It's only because He's good that He loved me enough to save me. It's only because of His mercy that I live and breathe and have eternal life secured. Everything I have stems not from anything I earned, but from His grace.
Wow, that's heavy stuff. It's true stuff, but heavy, nonetheless. Did you know that if you hear nothing but this, it can get burdensome? At the time, it was all I listened to. For years. There were other things to be heard, but I ignored them. I think part of it was my own make-up. I am prone to pride, and hence to self-punishment, for not being good enough. I went from being a proud sinner to being a proud saved person. I beat myself up mentally all the time for being so offensive to God. I wanted to be pleasing to Him...because I was proud. (But I didn't admit that last part.)
Now, don't think that I felt like God was a stern judge. I didn't! I was awed that He had forgiven me. I was astounded that He loved me, and answered my prayers, and took care of me. But I wanted to thank Him for all that; I wanted to be the best Christian I could be. I knew I couldn't do it in my own strength. I asked Him all the time to help me, to live through me. I loved Him.
But it wasn't enough. I wanted to love Him more - to fall in love with Him. I heard people talk about that; about "falling in love" with God. I wanted that. It seemed to be the height of spiritual perfection. I knew I loved Him. ....But I also knew I wasn't as close as I could be. I couldn't figure out why. Didn't I know what He was like? Hadn't I seen, over and over again, His goodness and mercy and grace? I had every reason to fall in love with Him! So why hadn't I? I had long, personal talks with Him. I didn't feel like there was a wall of sin between us. I was walking in obedience, as far as I knew. He was personal, real - right there with me. So why didn't I feel "in love"?
About the time I turned 12, I started encountering depression. That time in my life is too detailed and too personal to share here, but it has lasted a long time - followed me, as it were. I've seen more depression that I'd ever wish on anybody. I've known suicidal thoughts, and I've known mental pain worse than any physical pain could ever be.
It all centered around my inadequacies. My failures. I said I hated myself, but the truth was I loved myself. I was in agony because the real me couldn't be the way the mental me wanted to be. I wanted to be good. I wanted the fruit of the spirit to be evident in my life in a more powerful way. I wanted to be able to pray for hours without being distracted. I wanted to have more of a burden for lost souls. I wanted to love God more than I did. I wanted to live a holier life.
Three weeks ago, a woman whom I admire and look up to, sat me down and had a talk with me. We don't know each other well enough for her to have known that I handle direct approaches better than vague ones, but God must have told her, because that's the approach she took.
She told me flat out that she thought God brought her and my life together because she needed to tell me how much God loves me.
Immediately those long-practiced barriers and excuses popped up. "Yes, I know He loves me, but be careful what you say about it! Never forget that you don't deserve it! Be very careful to remind yourself and others that you have nothing good in you, or anything worth loving." I was very near to blocking out the rest of the conversation already. I'd heard too much man-centered gospel, and I shied away from anything that sounded like it was going to lift up man and make him seem like he was doing God any favors by letting himself be saved.
I was quick to assure this lady that I know God loves me. She responded by saying that I didn't know the kind of love He has for me. She said He treasures me, as the apple of His eye. He valued me. He thought I was beautiful, without spot. He saw me as clean in His sight. He loved me the way a husband loves his wife. He is ravished with love for me.
Now, all that got my attention.
Kind of love? Somewhere in the back of my mind, memories were stirring. Those things I learned when I was very little, about different kinds of love. Those longings I started to have when I was younger - and still had - for someone to treasure me as his one.
I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. It couldn't be true. It was too wonderful....too good for me. It couldn't be for me. It seemed so....so blasphemous to say He loved me that way.
You see, I understood the love of a father. I have a wonderful father. And I can comprehend God the Father as just that - a father. A provider. Protector. Someone who loves you even when you're unlovely. Someone who sees you fall, shakes his head over your mistakes, but gives you a helping hand back up. Someone who teaches you, leads you. I understood all that.
But someone who thinks I'm beautiful, and clean? Someone who longs to be intimate with me? A lover?
I didn't get that. Not one bit. And I was scared to pieces. This lady and I talked for over an hour, and I was trembling inside the entire time. I wanted to bury my head, pretend I hadn't heard. It seemed so wrong...I wanted to think that someone loved me like that, but I was scared. Scared to say "I believe," and then be humiliated by seeing that it was false. I wanted to run away, deny it. I wanted someone to tell me she was wrong.
But I also wanted someone to tell me she was right.
I practically sped home, and pounced on my parents. "Mom, what do you think?" "Daddy, is she right?" "Is it true?" They both gave me good answers. But I wasn't satisfied. I can't even really remember very clearly what they told me. I wasn't coherent. I was dizzy with wonder.
The next two days were unlike anything I've ever experienced. You must understand that I'm not a single-minded person. I have a very short attention span.
I'm constantly starting new projects, and my thought-life is continually jumping around. I don't stay serious for long, and I don't stay goofy for long. I don't stay sad for long, or happy for long. I'm constantly changing.
But for two days I thought of nothing else. That alone was terrifying and strange to me. I couldn't get my mind off this new thought! "Can it be true? Can it possibly be true?" I could think of nothing else.
For one day, I just walked around wondering, rather vague and almost in shock. The second day, I came to life. Every spare minute I had, I was in the Word of God. I read through Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 John, and the 17th chapter of John - not just once, but over and over again. I searched the Psalms. I searched the prophets. I searched everywhere I could think of. I grabbed a red colored pencil, and highlighted every scrap of hope I could find - anything that hinted of this marvelous love I had begun to hope for.
I was scared. Scared to assume too much. Scared of being wrong. Scared of being proud.
But verses started turning red all over the place. My hand trembled as I colored as fast as I could read.
And finally, as I read John 17 for the ump-tienth time, I got it.
"He loves me."
No, really - He loves me. I'm clean! He died on purpose. He loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it...Christ hath loved us, and given Himself for us...what more could He have given? ...My beloved is mine, and I am His... We are members of His flesh...like a husband and wife are one...He asked the Father to make us one, like He and the Father are one... God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him...there is no fear in love...there is now no condemnation...a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle...that ye may be rooted in love, and be able to comprehend with all saints, the height, and depth, and breadth, and width...
Oh, Glory - He loves me!
All of the sudden, tears were flowing, and all I could think of was the verse "we love Him because He first loved us."
I loved Him. I loved Him for this boundless love He has for me - a love that supersedes all my sins, and that washes me white as snow, and makes me a fit bride for the King of kings; He considers me fit to be by His side, as a part of the church! Oh, how He loves His church!
And all of the sudden, I knew what it was to be in love.
All this time, I've been asking Him to make me fall in love with Him, when all it took was seeing that He is in love with me.
And I couldn't keep quiet any longer. I had to tell you about it. Because maybe you don't know about it, either.
Now I see love everywhere. Everything I hear makes me think about His love. Everything proves it over and over again. Everything I read, see, or hear seems to be talking about His love.
Want proof? Guess what random forward I got in my inbox just before I began writing this post?