I got into a great conversation with a girl at a party recently. She’s been a friend for a long time, but it went so well I started to wish she was more than a friend. But I could tell she didn’t want the same.
It’s hard to walk away from a party alone. No one’s hand to reach for. It’s hard to be turned down. Especially when the holidays could be so much sweeter with someone. It is then, that those little irrational questions drift in: What’s wrong with me? Am I not lovable? Why am I alone?
Last Christmas, I didn’t go home as I had traveled a lot last fall. But as I was thinking about being alone over Christmas I recalled the little bit of tension between my brother and me, and the argument we had had a month or so ago. I know we love each other and that tension helps us both grow to be better to each other. But my mind keeps going back to that and asking: Have I failed as a family member? Is this in some way an indicator of why I’m alone?
And sometimes, especially when I feel lonely, I find myself remembering the small failures I’ve had with friends. That time I accidentally stood up a new friend for dinner, and he hasn’t talked much to me since. Or when I showed my impatience to a friend who was just being kind and reaching out to talk. And again I start to ask myself: Am I alone right now because of stuff I’ve done wrong? Have I messed up my chances to be loved?
I need to remind myself that I have good friends, my family loves each other, and I haven’t ruined my chances of romance. I know at times I feel very loved and nothing has changed with most of those people. I know people love me—so why does loneliness trick me into thinking otherwise? It makes me feel empty of love. I’m like a dry pitcher no other pitchers have poured into for a while, and I’m drying alone in the sun.
Recently, however, I realized I was looking at this wrong.
It Starts With Knowing We’re Loved
God has given us a different way to look at love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” We are not a pitcher waiting to be filled up by other pitchers. We are a pitcher that is filled up by the source of water itself. I must dip myself in the spring to receive His love first. Then I can avoid a mindset of scarcity, and act out of one of abundance.
This change in perspective is the most important part because all our actions flow out of it. Our beliefs dictate our actions.
Maybe it’s hard to imagine that type of love. It can be hard for those of us who have felt let down by God to picture God as good. Maybe there was a promise you felt God didn’t come through on. Or maybe God didn’t save you or someone you love from some horrible suffering. Remember that the hard things that have happened to you are a result of this worldly kingdom where God has allowed free wills to rule. God’s love and His kingdom is the opposite of that. He longs for us to know He loves us so much, even though it’s hard to see or feel through the fog and free will of this world.
Imagine how you feel when you see the cute innocence of your baby, or a nephew or niece, or even a new puppy, and how your heart wells with love because you want and hope so much for them. Now imagine that is a finite fraction of the love God wants to pour into you. He is your father. He has so many hopes for you, and so many things He wants to show you. He holds you closer than you hold your breath, and wants you to live within, and out of that love.
It Enables Us to Love Unconditionally
The next step is to act on that infinite love. When you are wondering why your family hasn’t called to check on you, or why your friend seemed distant when you last talked, you can be the one to love first. Act on your love for them. And do not make your love conditional on whether they love you back. If they are not at a place where they can give as much back, don’t require them to. For, as Acts 20:35 says, “It is better to give than to receive.” When it isn’t reciprocated, we must remember that there are many reasons—some beyond our control—why friendships grow distant. Or that romance is not returned. Or even that fissures within families happen. After I have looked at each situation to make sure I have done my part to repair and learn from it, I must let go of the worry and turn to God to be filled again.
Even though it is an incredible blessing when we do experience love for and from other people, and we are meant to feed and cherish it, our love pitcher is not meant to be filled first by other people pouring their love into us. We are first meant to be filled with God’s love. And this is the place of abundance from which we love others.
Raw Spoon, 1-1-18