The Harsh Reality of Love
I titled my very first blog post, "Let's Talk About Love". When I wrote it years ago, it was an introduction to Shaylamour and Prize, Not Punishment, but it was also a goal. I wanted to learn how to love in all its different forms, especially Agape. Since1 John 4:16 refers to God as love, I knew that loving would help me to form a deeper connection with God. As I profusely typed, I imagined the bliss of how a deeper love would be. Of course, I didn't imagine perfection, because although God is perfect, I am not. But I did imagine a picture so beautiful, that it kept me up at night. I sometimes laugh and think that God must have said to Himself, "If she's going to talk about unconditional love, then she's going to learn how to love someone unconditionally." And so I fell in love.
My love for this person was surprisingly intense. More than once, I thought it was nonsensical. Even as I reflect on our time together, I can't think of too many moments where I felt that it was genuinely reciprocated. After we exited each other's lives, I figured in due time, it would just disappear. But then it didn't. As the days went on, my emotions grew stronger for reasons that I hadn't quite grasped. Of course, there was some level of care. But love? I didn't understand it, and it seemed counterintuitive. It frustrated me. I grew angry and even more hurt, not only at the circumstances that ended our relationship but at myself for continuing to feel something for him other than disgust. If I'm going to be completely transparent, I even grew frustrated with God for allowing me to feel so deeply for him.
Why should I feel anything positive for him? He's never done anything to make me feel special, but I've watched him wine and dine other women! It's not right for me to hurt over him. He doesn't deserve my love!
In my rant to God, that's when He spoke to me and said, "The reason why you're frustrated is because you desire the wrong type of love. You desire a conditional love, but My love is unconditional."
As God unpacked this revelation, I was reminded of a sermon from the late Dr. Myles Munroe, where he spoke on the differences between Agape, Eros, Storge, and Philia. For years, I thought about his illustration of Agape love.
In his words, "If you can tell a person why you love them, the love is canceled."
He went on to explain how Agape love does not require a reason. No job, good looks, status, or anything else can justify Agape love because it truly is unconditional. I thought the teaching was brilliant and his examples were excellent, but I underestimated what it would be like to apply unconditional love in my life.
According to Oxford Languages, "unconditional" means not subject to any conditions. Synonyms include unquestioning, unlimited, unrestricted, and more. Although it might seem straightforward, I really had to meditate on the word so that I could appreciate its meaning. Thinking through this, I began to see the "conditions" that I had placed on my definition of love. I really wanted to say that I loved him because of the wonderful things he did for me or how he made me feel, but there was one huge problem: I had nothing to rely on.
In my frustration, I constantly reminded myself that he never did anything to make me feel as special as he was to me. He never paid for a date, he traded me instantly for Instagram models, he was dishonest to me even when I presented my authentic self, and he refused to apologize for his wrongdoings towards me. I can truly say, that my love was met with disrespect. But guess what... he never had to treat me wonderfully for me to love him. If he did, then his actions would have become conditions for my love. Can you imagine if God placed conditions on His love for us?
The Bible features many examples of unconditional love, but let's think of Jesus for a moment. He committed the greatest act of love known to mankind, which was His sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Just think about it: We didn't deserve His work on the cross, but because He did, we are now saved by faith in Him and He is currently sitting at the right hand of God. What a beautiful sacrifice He made for us!
As I pictured Jesus taking the thirty-nine stripes, being raised on the cross, and taking a piercing in His side for our sins, I considered something obvious that I hadn't thought much on before. Jesus hurt for us while on that cross. He did so because He loved us that much. I didn't understand the pain I felt for loving this person, but I eventually did. The harsh reality is that it can be a painful experience to love someone unconditionally. Honestly, it does not always feel beautiful. However, even when unconditional love doesn't feel beautiful, it does not change the fact that it is beautiful. Learning how to love him when he was unlovable, produced in me greater strength, endurance, maturity, perspective, and a deeper ability to love.
Despite the pain, it placed me in position. Now, my unconditional love does not depend on how someone treats me. I can offer someone love simply for who they are. I can love selflessly, and I truly believe that God will use that quality in me to be a blessing to others.
Does unconditional love mean that someone can disrespect you without consequences? I don't think so. God loves us with Agape, but we can still separate ourselves from His presence through sin. Unconditional love doesn't eliminate healthy boundaries. When we go against God's will for our lives, we alienate ourselves from Him. Colossians 1:21. However, our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and a repentant heart can bring us back into the presence of God. Agape love allows an opportunity for repentance and reconciliation. 1 John 1:9.
So what can unconditional love look like? Perhaps it's praying for someone that won't talk to you. At times, it can be intentionally choosing to forgive someone that hurt you. It can even look like extending grace to someone unworthy. Most importantly, I believe unconditional love looks like always being willing and ready to reconcile because that's how God loves us.
My journey to achieving a lifestyle of Agape love looks nothing like I originally imagined, but it has turned me into a stronger believer and a better person. My growth through this experience has helped me gain a deeper understanding of the Gospel, and for that, I will always be grateful to God and my first love. Although there's still healing to be done, I know that only good can come from unconditional love. I'm excited to see how God uses it in my life. Stay tuned...
Loving as I Learn,
* Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, John 15:12-14, Matthew 5:44
* Dr. Myles Munroe Unconditional Love Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64KH9Jv1PEY&t=27s