Day 5: Love is Difficult
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.--1 Corinthians 13:7
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.--1 John 3:16
Nope. Sorry. Not possible. It's a nice sentiment though.
It would be nice if your imperfections didn't rattle me. It would be great if I could handle your drama but since I can't I'm going to keep you at a distance because you just might get to know me and I you. Then we will both be crushed by each other’s needs and we can no longer be friends.
The dating world gets it. People get together in a contractual agreement so they can prop one another up in whatever image they have of themselves. They think, "Maybe this person can help me to be the person I am trying to be," but as soon as they get to know one another, as soon as the fantasy wears off, that's when most relationships end and they both go off to find a new one to continue their fantasy with.
Here are the facts. We are hard to love. Really, really hard. But, dang, we are worth it!
So what do we do? We hide. We only show people what we feel safe showing. We only show people the things we know about ourselves that feel safe enough to share. The rest, we work diligently to hide away. But you can't hide forever, not unless you want to be a hermit--oh but then you are stuck with yourself!
Not only are we hard to love, we also naturally bring out the worst in one another. So this is where two people lock eyes and say, "You will be the death of me." This is inevitable when you really get to know any other person. For example, in the stalemate of our most frustrating and unresolvable marital conflicts, I used to say to Lori, in a most poetic and melodramatic way, "My problems are your poison and your problems are my poison." She hated that (she doesn't hate when I say it anymore because I have learned not it say it anymore--it's not helpful, dummy!).
But it's true. Lori and I, like any other marriage, are examples of how easy it is for us to bring out the worst in the other. The people closest to us--the people who have promised to love us--they are the ones who get more than meets the eye, possibly more than what they bargained for and then their problems are too much to bare and it destroys us.
The more you get to know someone, the harder it is to love them. The more you try to love them, the more it seems like the process of love is going to kill you. The simple fix is to go into a transactional relationship, "Don't scratch my soul too deep and I won't go excavating your heart either. Deal?" This is really common but it is not love. It is not the way the universe is designed to function.
But if we can "give up our lives for our brothers and sisters," we stand a good chance of seeing love really show its power. The fact is, though we don't want to show and we don't want to tell, we still long to be known and loved as well as to know and love others. It's the basis of love, to know and love and to be known and be loved. We crave it. We were made for it. We long for it but when we venture our little fragile souls out into no man's land we get shot at (and we shoot back) because apart from Divine intervention, people can't handle the weight of another broken soul, not when they are burdened under the weight of their own soul.
But if God is love and love endures and bears all things, it must be that love plays the game on a different playing field. It must be that love demands a deeper and deeper knowledge in order to grow. It's almost like true love feeds on the flaws of the other so it can demonstrate itself to be sufficient to give of itself to the other.
We'd love to be able to say, "Sure. It's no big deal. Get locked away. It's no big deal. I will love you the same."
But it wouldn't be the same, real love is difficult. It demands more than "the same". It requires a giving of self beyond measure. Real love WILL be the death of you and that's a good thing because your relationships will no longer be sentimental, contractual or transactional. Your love for the other would become selfless. It would become sacrificial. It would become a glorious and beautiful thing. It would be divine--love is of God and anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
I confess that I prefer to sentimentalize love rather than follow it into the difficult but beautiful places where grace is found. I confess that I am afraid to be known because of the high risk of rejection. Would you please show me that grace doesn't play the self-protection game? Show me the intensity of your self-giving love, a love that has fully known me all along and still pursues. Amen.