My evening devotional before curling up to sleep last night got me thinking (I know this is dangerous stuff, me thinking!). I started looking at my life and the long term relationships I’ve had. Couple relationships, for all intents and purposes, have an end goal of forever. We date because we are trying to find a mate, it is in our wiring to mate. We’re sexual creatures and wired to love not only from the heart but physically as well. Obviously we’re meant to be paired off. So far not a single relationship I’ve had has made it to forever and it got me wondering why.
Some things that stood out to me when reading last night were that we are commanded to love each other. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) is a pretty steep order, self love runs deep. “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) well that is unconditional love for one another, as God’s love for His people is unconditional (salvation assumed). The love of a husband for his wife carries and even heavier command, “husbands loves your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19). That unconditional love that would give oneself up for their wife is heavy. I’ve often wondered what that is like. Funny that wives are never given a direct command to love their husbands, though it is certainly implied in Leviticus 19:18 and John 15:12. Might as well toss in the do unto others as a thought here too, as we should indeed treat others as we would want them to treat us. I also noted that no where do those commands carry a disclaimer or exception. As I often hear when trying to help another, “yes but HE” or “yes but SHE”. Our love for each other is unconditional, no disclaimers no exceptions. Certainly God‘s children sin and often miserably so. We fall off the path and pierce the heart of God time and time again. Yet HE loves us unconditionally and does not turn His back on us. He forgives us. In fact when mankind was at it’s worst, God gave the ultimate sacrifice and restored our relationship to Him. He set the bar, and we in turn are to imitate that love and when we are wronged by another, not just forgive, but RESTORE that relationship.
Does that love mean the relationship is going to be perfect? Well only if we are perfect and as humans we are far from it. But that doesn’t get us off the hook. When we commit to someone else then that is supposed to last, no matter what arises we are supposed to love them unconditionally and not bail.
I thought back over my relationships, ALL of them from friendships, to friends with benefits, dating and marriages.
Friends with benefits…frankly that is a mockery of God’s intent for us, in my opinion. The ‘benefits’ are the dessert of the relationship. The single, most expressive part of a couple’s relationship comes in making love and demonstrating that to each other through their physical affection, as nothing else feels so physically amazing. To have shared that with anyone other than the person I was committed too was simply wrong. It never felt right and in fact felt cheap, like a bad imitation of a priceless diamond. Used for temporary pleasure until the shine is gone then toss it aside. But when it was right, when the physical took over for where the words couldn’t be said, it was without a doubt the most amazing experience. Sadly it wasn’t someone I was married too, has been since my divorce, but was indeed someone I’d committed too. I learned something with that experience, and I will never again share that part of myself with anyone that I am not in a committed, love relationship. I know now what it is supposed to be like and I’ll wait for it to come back to me.
When it comes to the dating and marriage relationships, I’ve always been told I’m too forgiving. I love deeply and my nature is to love with a serious passion. Not physically, but from the heart. I don’t give up on men, they give up on me. I’ve been in relationships with verbally and physically abusive men, and men that cannot remain faithful to save their life. And every time I was willing to forgive, to love them unconditionally. Get drunk and punch me, I forgave it. Drunk and bashing my head in the wall, yeah I forgave that too and stayed. Call me stupid, but I tried to love unconditionally. I attempted to change who I am, and I tried to meet the standard set. Wandering eyes and heart, I forgave it. Trying to find a little action on the side while I’m at work, sure I forgave that too and tried hard to get past the betrayal. Everything was always MY fault, everything that failed always fell on my shoulders. And I have no doubt I was far from perfect. Every rose has thorns, and this one is no exception, I hurt them and made their hearts bleed, just as they did to me. It is part of life and love.
I do not for a minute ever deny that I come as damaged goods (like who doesn’t?). I have baggage. I have glaring faults. No, I don’t always reveal them up front, no one does. A friend talked to me about relationships, that a person slowly opens up like a flower blooming. That was actually a great analogy. As a rose blooms, if we look close we will see blemishes on the petals, sometimes rips in the delicate fabric, sometimes holes. What appears perfect is far from it, no flower is perfect. No person is perfect, and certainly this woman is far from it. Shrek used an onion to describe it, many layers. Sometimes you have to peel down a number of layers to see the imperfections. There is no way anyone can tell everything negative about themselves to another up front, it takes time to discover those not so good parts, but it also takes time to discover the parts that ARE perfect and wonderful.
As my relationships have all blossomed, I’ve discovered many imperfections in the men I’ve known and committed too. But when I gave my love to them it was unconditional, not based on only their good and perfect aspects but I accepted right along with those the parts of them that at times were bad, and other times flat out ugly and mean. Unconditional is just that, no exceptions. I forgave and stayed the course, often having to walk on egg shells, bite my tongue, or change something about myself to ‘conform’ to their standard. But I was always willing to try. What I never understood is why they never gave ME their unconditional love in return. Twice it was vowed to me at the alter before God, friends and family, and other times from their heart, and every time it has been taken from me because I did not measure up to their standards, their conditions. Their love for me was conditional on many things including that I not hurt them. And even in the few love relationships I’ve had where it did not end up in marriage, I loved with all of me, accepting and loving unconditionally, but did not get that in return. I suffered many deep cuts to my heart, complete betrayal, cried hundreds of lonely nights in pain, and still gave my love to them, unconditionally and stayed stubbornly put through it all, loving them and never walking away. Even bible believing, born again men, for some reason are unable to love me back without conditions. I screw up and the ‘love’ for me withers on the vine and I’m left alone and hurting all over again.
How can any relationship be restored if someone is not willing to follow the perfect example and be willing to sacrifice and hurt, loving unconditionally, in order to restore it??? The relationship with God grows and flourishes with us because of that unconditional, restoring love. Is that not what would happen if two people that love each other would follow the example and the commands we’re given regarding love? Is it not what we are commanded to do with ALL those we love? YES the love we are commanded to love with is going to hurt at times, deeper than anything we can imagine, yet it will never be as deep as the pain that nailed Christ to the cross in unconditional love for us…the love we are to imitate through our love with one another. Healing came to us when we came back to the Lord and allowed love to sooth the wounds, just as it does when we in turn demonstrate that love by following the commands and staying put through the painful parts.
I am beginning to believe I will never know what that is like, as I am unable to meet the conditions set upon me by those that would claim to follow the One that set the example and gave the commands. All 3 men that I was willing to commit too on this level either came to the Lord or were there when I met them. And you’ll note that though I loved them that way, I am sitting here alone and hurting yet again. As I’ve climbed back up on this at times difficult and up hill path, it is the stuff that makes me sometimes question if the book I most treasure and the God I’ve clung too in my darkest hours, is nothing more than a beautifully written fairy tale, and I will forever be a single rose among the withered buds.