“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“Learning to love takes time. It takes safety and surrender. It takes truth and understanding. Love requires effort. Love demands that you to change. Love requires that you reflect. Love is a choice, and in choosing, you will never be the same.” – Suzanne Wagner
This week I’ve thought a lot about love – what I’ve loved, who I’ve loved, and most importantly how I’ve loved. As I looked back in my own life, love had been healing, invigorating, and comforting. But I can say without a doubt at times it was hurtful, exacerbating and upsetting. I don’t think I’m alone in saying, “When it comes to love, I’ve got a lot to learn!”
A few years back circumstances within my life left me feeling worthless, unwanted, and unlovable. During this dark time, I experienced God’s love in a way I never felt before. I can remember how I looked forward to sitting alone in my apartment and immersing myself in it – taking time each day to simply receive and accept it. God’s love kept me alive back then, pulling me out of despair and disillusionment – giving me a renewed sense of purpose and hope for the future.
“Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I will praise you!” – Psalm 63:3 NLT
Experiencing the power of His love created a desire in me to learn more about it. How does God love? What characteristics define it? If God’s love is perfect, how can we learn to love God’s way?
Learn to See Love as a Choice
“Choose your love. Love your choice.” – Thomas S. Monson
God’s love for us is unfailing and unconditional. It isn’t based on how we treat Him or how we behave and act. The Bible says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5: 6-8 NLT) God chooses to love us regardless of who we are or how we act PERIOD. Think about the power of that kind of love!
We, on the other hand, tend to love others only if they love us in return. We judge another’s love for us based on their treatment of us. We love if and only if we feel inspired to do so instead of making the choice and commitment to love unconditionally no matter how we are treated, how we feel, or if we are loved in return.
This kind of “quid pro quo” love has destroyed many marriages, families, and friendships. Instead of making the choice to love someone, we place too much emphasis on feelings and what we are receiving in return for our love. Think about the selfishness that surrounds this kind of love!
Who are you choosing to love today regardless of how you are treated in return? Can you see the difference in committed, unconditional love versus love that’s based on “quid pro quo”?
Think about the comfort, peace and security that flows into a relationship as a result of choosing to love someone unconditionally. God loves us in this very special way 🙂 This is how I felt in those difficult years I mentioned earlier. My imperfections, mistakes, mishaps and blunders would never change God’s love for me. I could always count on His love and understanding when I needed it most.
Learn to love someone by conscious choice – not by feelings or their reciprocal actions toward you. By doing so, you will experience a love that is deeper and more satisfying.
Learn to Quickly and Readily Forgive
“If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.” – Mother Teresa
“Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love covers all offenses.” – Proverbs 10:12 NLT
“Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” – 1 Corinthians 13:5 NLY
I don’t think there is a greater love on earth than one willing to readily forgive and quickly forget. We all make mistakes, and if you’re like me; your scroll of infractions would stretch the length of the equator!
When the inevitable mistake or hurt surfaces within a relationship, the quicker it’s identified and forgiven, the stronger the relationship becomes. God knows this and chooses to forgive us and love us in this fashion 🙂
“The Lord is merciful and gracious; He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does He deal with us as we deserve.” – Psalm 103:8-10 NLT
When I think back on my own failed relationships, I can see how my unforgiving attitudes kept reopening painful wounds – not allowing the relationship to heal and recover.
Where in your own relationships have you harbored an unforgiving spirit? How can you learn to love God’s way by quickly and readily forgiving a spouse, sibling, or dear friend for an offense that happened years ago?
Learn to Love with Grace
“To love someone means to see them as God intended them.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Love comes easier when it involves friends and family, but perfected love involves grace – loving someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved at all.
“But I say to you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children to your Father in heaven. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:44-45 and 46-48 NLT
You will learn to love God’s way when you extend gracious love toward the undeserving people in your life. When you’re tempted to turn your back on them, remember the grace and underserved love you receive from God every day. How quickly we forget the grace extended to us, but harbor feelings of hate and contempt on those people in our life who have wronged us!
If you have enemies or people in your life who are out to due you harm, show them love by graciously praying for them – bringing them before God and asking Him to intervene in the fractured relationship. Watch how God will begin to change your own perspective and deepen your love toward them.
I can personally testify to this. I have experienced first hand the paradigm shift that comes by praying for the undeserving people in my life who are hurtful and destructive. As I’ve drawn closer to God in prayer, He has given me a deeper understanding of the situation – shedding a new light on these individuals and their behavior.
As a result, I see them differently – feeling sorry for them. I have begun to realize how unaware and oblivious they are to their own wretchedness. God has shown me like those who persecuted Christ on the cross, “they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NLT)
Your prayers for your enemies will begin to invoke more empathy – more gracious love into your view of the situation. You will begin to understand and learn God’s way of graciously loving those who least deserve it.
My prayer tonight is that we all learn to love God’s way. This kind of perfect love is quick to forgive, eager to love graciously, and always chooses to love regardless of the response it receives.
I pray that you embrace, receive, and accept God’s unfailing love for you and strive to love others in your own life in the way He loves you my friend 🙂