If love longs for response, does that nullify the purity of the love?
If love is truly self-forgetfulness … yet the lover yearns to be loved back … how can we say it forgets itself? It might be perfectly natural – but can we call it pure?
Are humans even capable of agape, the unconditional type of love? Not even the best intentions of our heart are unmixed with self-interest. God understands this: He builds self-interest into His appeals to us. Even the most altruistic person, giving their life for their child or partner, must surely count the cost – and have their about-to-be-cut-off future flash before their eyes. Even Jesus asked that if possible, the cup might pass from Him.
I wonder if maybe pure love then is not so much restricted to Level: God, but that even in the face of cutting off all possible futures, or in the face of unrequitedness, or crucifixion, love, having counted the cost, scoffs at it and persists. Jesus, in that agonised moment where He maybe couldn’t feel love enough for us (catching Z’s in the background while He sweated blood), loved and trusted and sumbitted to His Father, who had previously set the joy of human redemption before Him. When you can’t remember all of why you go on, you fix on one sure thing. For Jesus, it was His Father’s will, and wrapped up in that was the why of the will: Their love for humanity and the display of Their glory as Love demonstrated its true colours to all realms. Maybe the purest love is simply the doggedest. If three things remain – faith, hope and love (the greatest) – maybe they remain because they just don’t know when to quit. They say, “I will go to my deathbed believing in you. I will go to my deathbed hoping you’ll respond. I will go to my deathbed remaining there for you, whether you appreciate it or not.”
I wonder if this is what the Prodigal Son’s father experienced. “One day, he’ll come back. One day, he’ll come to his senses. And when he does, I’ll be here, and I’ll meet him with joy.” Certainly this is how God treats us, in this interstice between the Resurrection and the Return. The massive, incredible gift of His heart sits unopened on many a mantelpiece. And He waits.
I hear a lot about how love is a verb: it’s not what you say or what you feel, but what you do. It’s less about attraction and more about commitment. There’s a great deal of truth in that, though I think the very best love encompasses all three. The point there is that love, like a bank balance, either finds expression or is redundant. But sometimes … in some circumstances … I think love waits, and that waiting is a kind of action as well. Waiting sounds passive. But sometimes action is denied us. Or, we’ve done everything in our power and the ship has sailed anyway. So we must wait. But in the waiting, when all our faith and hope and love are bent toward the subject, we’re praying for their wellbeing, we’re blessing them, we’re ensuring our setup is good to go, we’re offering for God to change us where necessary. And we’re seeing an opportunity to expand our own heart. How else can we grow in love, unless love is stretched past its comfort zone? If my long-range value is that I wish to become a more loving person, then in each moment, who am I choosing to become? Someone who sniffles at the sunset, or someone who sets her face to the sunrise?
Oh, but it’s not easy. I absolutely do not know where the line is between being the ultimate “there for you” loving person, and sticking up for my non-doormat self because Scripture expects me to love myself as well – and because I am not, after all, made of stone. I hurt. The simplest answers can be the hardest to live out. But today, in this moment, I’ll give it a red-hot go.