Love Never Fails
The only way we truly know how to love, is to be loved. But by whom? A parent? A friend? A boyfriend/girlfriend? A spouse? We live in a modern culture that is steeped in various forms of “love.” We all want to be loved. We all have love to give away. Love is everywhere. But where does it come from?
“I love you.”
I banished those three little words from my vocabulary. Three words, in that specific order. Eight letters. 5 vowels and 3 consonants.
I grew up in a home where the words “I love you” were not often said. Not for lack of love. Love was shown in other ways – the way my brother & I were well-provided for, in the correction and discipline we received. But those three words, “I love you,” were rare and I can honestly say that the first time those words really made an impact on me was when my first “love” said them to me. Many times over. He had to because I didn’t believe him for a long time, and then one day I did believe… and then I was all in. So I said “I love you too.” Many times over. More times than I care to remember.
And then the one and only person who I ever allowed to say those words to me broke my heart and shattered it to pieces. Single-handedly destroyed my faith in a person’s ability to love selflessly, and destroyed my faith in my own ability to love without being terrified. Everything I knew about love became rewired: love wasn’t unconditional, it was conditional. Love didn’t make the world go ‘round, it made my world come to a crashing halt. Love was pain.
So I built up walls around my heart and banished the word “love” from my vocabulary; it had no place in a mind that only associated love with pain. I drew little hearts on letters to friends, instead of signing, “Love, Jeannie.” I carefully excised “love” from my conversation, reverting back to that elementary school mentality of “You love French fries? Do you love fries enough to marry it? No?? Then you just mean you really LIKE French fries.” It was ridiculous, but it was my way of coping.
The balm of time has healed my heart, but with matters of the heart, microscopic cracks still remain and the effects reverberate for much, much longer. It’s been many years, and I’m still relearning what it means to love. It has been, at times, an incredibly difficult journey because learning to love again means learning to trust again. And trusting means letting go of the emotional baggage that I hold onto desperately, because in some sick way I’d rather hold on to what I know, than experience the freedom of the unknown.
The journey back to learning how to love has been bumpy. I’ve learned what an imperfect lover I am, but more importantly, what an imperfect receiver of love I am. Especially when it came to just being loved by God. Doing and being nothing, but finding my identity as one loved by a faithful Father. A father so faithful He would give up His only Son to die on a cross for me. There is no greater love than this. It is only through this selfless example of love that I’ve had the courage and strength to love again. To love people when there is nothing in it for me. To love when I definitely do NOT feel like loving anyone because let’s face it, we’re all pretty unlovable sometimes. To love even when I know my own love is imperfect and flawed, knowing that God’s grace can and will cover where I have failed. To love to the best of my ability, having faith that Jesus loves better than I could ever love.
One of the hardest things for me to do is just receive love from people, knowing full-well that people who love me are imperfect and will still hurt and disappoint me, despite their best efforts. But those who profess to love Christ are still a reflection of perfect love. I’ve experienced more love and grace in my life in San Francisco than ever before. I am surrounded by a community of faithful believers and people who love the Lord. Imperfect people who have led me to believe in love again, who have added those three little words “I love you” back to my life. Literally, I have been shouted at over and over: “I love you, Jeannie!” because I was being a little deaf, a little stubborn. Just let us love you, they seem to be saying. Just take this.
By the grace of God, and not by my own efforts because my efforts are to push love away, the walls around my heart have slowly broken down. I believe again. I believe people when they say they love me because I have cried and wept with them, laughed and rejoiced, and experienced the full range of emotions. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst, yet they still love me. I used to believe love was conditional on what value I provided to the lover, and it still is, to a certain extent because we are human, but more and more my brothers and sisters in my faith community have showed me love that is unconditional and grounded in Jesus. I continue to learn that when it comes to Jesus who loves me personally, I am infinitely valuable and infinitely loved. I’ll take it. It’s not easy, but I will take it.
My prayer for you (whoever you are!) is that you experience this perfect love of Christ first-hand and often. I pray this prayer for myself, maybe because I’m extra needy, but mostly because I know there is no other love that has satisfied me. I pray that you know to the depths of your soul that you are loved furiously, so that you can love furiously. Even when it hurts like hell, and you don’t want to do it anymore. But you can and you will, because God’s love is your anchor and sustains you. I pray that you learn to love the way God loves, because I truly believe and have experienced that until God shows you what true love is, you will run yourself into the ground chasing love that doesn’t satisfy. You will find yourself at a well that has dried up. But God says He is living water and the author of love. I want you to love better. I want us all to love better. I want us to experience the love that is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
You are loved more than you can imagine. Someone out there is crazy about you, and His name is Jesus.
P.S. For what it’s worth, I love you too.
I can be found worshiping Jesus with my faith community on Sundays at Reality San Francisco, located at 2174 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114. Services at 9am,11am and 5pm. I’ve also written about how I came to know Jesus here.