In the middle of the night, that’s when I fear unlove. Whatever light shone during the day, its not guaranteed that it will come back again in the morning. I wonder on my pillow if I did the right thing, said enough words, made my warmth accessible enough to you. I wonder in the darkness if you will be kind to my vulnerability, patient with my emotions, present in the raw moments.
Love is a potent and powerful force. It sustains the wavering. It encourages the dying. It inspires the meek. It emboldens the fearful. Wars are started, conflicts are solved, all in the name of love. Men women and children from generation to generation are enlightened by the glow of love’s flame. History and family and lover attest to the bond love forges. Love does not choose only the rich or powerful, but a tiny suckling infant is no less worthy of its strength. And so the divine doors of a loving relationship must be within my reach.
But tonight, I search for just a spark. The emotional flint that I hope it will lead to a flood of flames. Once ignited I expect an explosion, a burn, a smolder. Love will breathe on, as it purifies everything that it burns through. And so I desperately want that love to overtake me and never leave me alone. But even my own love tends to be picky and random. Passionate one morning and extinguished the next. Sure and confident this week, questioning and skittish the next week. So how can I be sure that another’s love will be any different? How can I trust that you will love me, if I can’t even keep track of the desires of my own personal love?
I need a love greater than me. A love that exceeds what I can conceive of in my experience, heart and mind. Some of us find that in a person. One who has a more mature love than what we expect from ourselves: Father, spouse, friend, mentor. There may be a love that we aspire to because it has first been shown to us. So in the night when I may wonder, I can think of my friend, the one who displayed the unknown ways of love to me.
Sometimes their great love is enough. But sometimes it is seriously lacking. The places and faces from which I expect love, a greater love than my own, they will fail. A husband will leave, a friend will gossip, a mother will abandon, a lover will cheat, a brother will turn, a sister will wound, a father will forsake. From this lesson on love, I have much to fear. No matter how intense the love was that they displayed, it is not strong enough to overcome the failure.
I need a love greater than me. I need a love greater than the one that has failed me in the past and fails me now. I hear that love overcomes all things, and yet I constantly fear the unlove that grips me. Why does the fire not burn clean in my own heart and mind? Either there is something wrong with me, or there is something wrong with love.
And I find that both are true. There is something terribly wrong with me. There is something dreadfully wrong with my shallow attempts at love. My love seeks immediate gratification and temporal glory. My love focuses on desires and whims that could change from one second to the next. My love depends on a personal passion churning deep within, with no claim to the authority that it should have over my life. My love might be imagined, it might be emotional distress, it might be indigestion, it might not even last the whole evening.
I need a love greater than me. A love that is true no matter what my aching heart has to say. A love that is fierce even when my soul groans in exhaustion. A love that is patient, kind and forgiving, when I finally expose the unlovable corruption that lurks inside.
Spoken love is the greatest gift. A love that was made manifest, shown, declared to me is more real and true than one I make up in my head. There is a greater love that would have never originated in my own emotion and will. There is a greater love that redefines every love that flows afterward. This unexpected love must be completely external. This joyous surprise love must be entirely dependent on the One who has created love in the first place.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)
The answer to unlove. God sent his only Son into the world, so that I would be called, “Beloved”. Beloved of the great Father Almighty. Beloved brother and sister to our Savior. Beloved of all whom God has chosen, all who love God and live in him. Spoken and external, this love is greater than me. Powerful and defining, this love of God conquers every fear of unlove.