Remember this famous lyric by the Beatles? “All you need is love.” Love. We yearn for love. We have love to give. We want to say and hear those three words, “I love you.” Tight. Except, what is love?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then consider this picture: One day I returned home from work. April was holding one of our four-month old infant triplets in one arm, she was feeding another baby a bottle, and she was rocking the third to sleep who was nestling in on her legs. Oh and she was also teaching our six-year old twins a homeschooling lesson!
The most remarkable part of that scene wasn’t even that she repeated care giving and teaching the day before and the day after; it wasn’t even that she met all those needs without complaint, and it wasn’t even the joy in her heart as she ministered to our five young children. The most incredible thing was that our five children all received love from her simultaneously. From taking care of basic needs to learning first grade lessons, each child was cultivating a relationship with her in which each was valued and affirmed. In the minutiae of life, April was loving her children in a powerful way.
What were our children experiencing? What should you be experiencing if you’re in a love relationship? Significance and security are the two indispensable elements of love. If you’re in a loving relationship, you should experience and give both.
April and I watched one old black and white movie that I wish I could remember the name of. A young daughter described feeling like she was “ten feet tall,” whenever she was with her dad. He made her beam from the inside out. She felt so deeply valued that she knew how special, how important, and significant she was. Similarly, she felt safe. She did not have to question herself or develop a sense of insecurity. She knew that she was physically and emotionally secure when she was with her dad.
Imagine if you could give and receive security and significance. But how?
In our own strength, we could be pretty good at giving security and significance for a week or two. Ultimately, the only way to love someone well is by being so rooted in Christ that you are free to be a giver instead of a taker. Because all of your needs for identity are met in Christ, you are freed up to live with open palms instead of with clenched fists. You can love passionately, courageously, and well.
What kind of givers can we become? Those who love with reckless abandonment. Those who love others by pouring themselves out for the person we love. As Elroy Cruz, a New York City pastor put it, “I only have two loves in my life. God and the person standing in front of me.” By putting the others needs ahead of our own, we can begin to love with open palms, with nail scarred hands.
A word of caution: Jesus counsels us to be wise as serpents and innocent as lambs. If you choose to “give until it hurts and then give some more” as Mother Teresa counseled, then you must also ask Jesus for wisdom to pick someone who will love you similarly back. If you cultivate a relationship in which you do all the giving and the other person does all the taking, you’ve developed an abusive relationship.
Jesus teaches us to love the Lord our God and our neighbor as ourselves. In a healthy loving relationship, you can build an upward spiral of health, where you continue to grow closer and deeper with the love of your life. You can begin to develop that relationship well by rooting yourself in Christ so that you’re free to give to another person in such a way that you’re cultivating security and significance in the love of your life.
Imagine you in a loving relationship. Now imagine that person in a loving relationship with you. Now imagine Jesus embracing both of you in love and beaming. . .