I love new music. When I’m introduced to a new song I like, it finds its way onto every playlist I make for the next several months. Then at some point, I press play and find these young, spry songs have become worn, predictable ones.
This can happen in the realm of words, too. Words that once stirred or inspired us can, over time, become tired and formulaic. We end up skipping over them without a thought.
The word love is like this. It means so much, and means so little.
Gratefully, in the past few years, I’ve begun thinking about love like this: Love is self-giving. Thinking about love this way has challenged everything I do, and it’s transforming my view of God.
Let me share a bit about what I’ve been learning:
Self. True love is about offering yourself. Not time, not stuff, not money. Not an aspect of your life. But giving your very being-your mind, your body, your gifts, everything.
Giving. Love is always a gift freely given. If it’s forced or manipulated away then it isn’t a gift. Love cannot be taken from your hands. And to be a true gift, it must be fully released. When you give, you retain no claim to that which is given. It’s not currency, not a trade or a loan.
Love. What’s done in love is done completely for someone else’s good. There are no ulterior motives because it’s truly not about you. And incidentally, love’s focus is not as much on generating good feelings as it is on providing authentic good to someone else.
Self-giving love is what God calls us each to in every area of our lives.
Hold up most of my life to this understanding of love and I fail miserably. What about you? Think back over the past week, how much of your love was the self-giving kind? Think even about the Christmas gifts you gave, were they given in self-giving love?
Now consider the areas of sex, romance, marriage, singleness. How different would these look if all we did was done in self-giving love?
In contrast, hold up any part of Jesus’ life and you’ll see each of these operating fully.
And that’s great news. Christmas is the story of self-giving love coming to us. He breaks all our petty or demanding images of God’s love. He transforms our smaller loves into his bigger, self-giving love. And he does this by freely giving all that he is to us for our good. To paraphrase St. Athanasius, Jesus became what we are so we could become what he is.
In this coming year, may you know God’s love for you as the self-giving love that it is. And may your own expressions of love be challenged by, purified through, and transformed in his love.
Josh Glaser, Executive Director