What I Believed About Love and How the Church Changed It

March 3, 2022
Relationships

If you’re a 90s kid, you would know what a slam book is. It’s a notebook with a bunch of personal questions that reveal something about a person’s preferences or ambitions. 


All slam books have a common question: “WHAT IS LOVE?” Based on experience, the most common answer would be ‘Love is Blind’.  


Most of us automatically think of romance whenever we hear the word “love.” But when asked to define, we realize that there isn’t a single word to encompass its meaning. Instead, we resort to describing the feeling of love: butterflies in our stomach, smiling from cheek to cheek, or holding-hands-while-walking.


But this is just the “picture” of love as movies would paint it, which has somehow dictated our expectations of love. People who have had the chance to be in a long-term relationship know that love is never what we had expected it to be. It starts out almost perfect—complete with sparks and fireworks—until you’re faced with personal differences that you will have to maneuver.. 


Relationships aren't exactly a walk in the park. (Maybe more like Jurassic Park!)


Poetic and cheesy—that was what love was for me.  I believed in the big-gestures kind of love, the giving-it-your-all kind, the putting-the-other-person’s-happiness-before-yourself kind. And I did reap the benefits of that, along with all the consequences: burning out, unrealistic expectations, and finding security in being someone’s significant other. 


I went through a very low point from 2019 to 2021, and that was when my understanding of “love” shifted. I let my emotions lead the way, took matters into my own hands, tried my own coping mechanisms, and did not listen to God. In fact, I deliberately disobeyed God. I went from hurt, anger, denial, condemnation, bargaining and self-preservation. But in my lowest moments, I turned to God and He sent me people from the church community who became the strength that I needed at that time.


A couple I looked up to in church had helped me process and go through the whole thing. They sacrificed their time to walk with me, to hold my hand through it all, and to tell me things I needed to hear. They called out my blind spots and things about myself that were painful to accept. It was a journey of correction and dying to self, but I’m all the better for it. I did have to do my part though; I needed to be open and accountable to them. I had to accept that I couldn’t do things on my own and that I needed help. 


That entire experience changed the way I understood the church community. Their love and commitment to me went beyond Sundays—it stretched out into the week, to wee hours of the night, to emotional phone calls, to inconveniences for them.


But that is LOVE. It isn’t convenient, it isn’t without effort, it can get messy, and ugly. It’s a process of learning and unlearning. I was that lost sheep that they helped shepherd even when they did not even need to. And it was because of their sacrifice that I felt God’s love even more.


I wouldn’t say I know how to love perfectly now, but my view on love has completely changed. In the most challenging of times, I go back to what God says LOVE is…


Love is patient and kind; 
Love does not envy or boast; 
Love is not arrogant or rude. 
Love does not insist on its own way; 
Love is not irritable or resentful;
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)


When I look at this list of how God expects us to love, it’s very far from what I thought love was. It even feels humanly impossible to meet this standard—to bear ALL things, to never be impatient or irritable.  It’s not optional, it’s a command that goes beyond romantic love. In fact, in Luke 6:32 He uses love as the standard by which believers should be known; to love even the ones that don’t show us love.


One exercise I do when I feel like I’m being pushed to my limits is I replace the word LOVE in that verse with my name. 


Mica is patient and kind;

Mica does not envy or boast;

Mica is not arrogant or rude.

Mica does not insist on her own way;

Mica is not irritable or resentful;

Mica does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

Mica bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. 


I think God really intended for His standard of love to feel impossible, so we can learn to rely on His grace in order to love like Him. And in the process of learning to love like Him, we, too, are changed.


The Passion Translation (TPT) for that same verse has this, as it’s last line.


“Love never stops loving.”


And that’s how Jesus demonstrates love. He never stops loving us, and now I know that Jesus Himself wired us to love, because it is that same love that led Him to die for us.


“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. . .”  (1 John 3:16-18)


And it is that same love that will rescue us through our wrong choices, bad decisions, and the sin that so easily entangles.


I am a work in progress and everyday I have to remind myself to continue to die to self, but it’s only because God has used people from the church community in my journey. 


It isn’t an accident that you’re reading this.


Maybe you’re already married and you need to be reminded of how God demonstrated His own love for us, which enables us to love others the same way.


Maybe you’re single and getting impatient, or heartbroken and mending.


Whatever your season, I want to remind you, as I also remind myself that God isn’t done writing your story. Hope is not lost. God is a turnaround specialist—a God who restores and enables us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.


Maybe the reason why most people say, “Love is blind,” is because real love does cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8-9). It is unconditional and self-denying. Relationships aren't perfect, yet we love nonetheless, because Jesus has been the prime example that love never stops loving. 


After all, we are only able to love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)


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