Saturday, 12 April 2008

Hurting because you cannot love

I've been learning experientially in recent years, that not being able to love a person hurts more than not being loved by the person.
Of course, when you do not have such desire to love the person, and you are not loving that person, then it's a different story. But when you do have a desire to love someone (and I use the term "love" in a cherishing, both mind-and-emotion-engaged, and seeking actively the well-being-of-the-other-person way, rather than simply that warm, fuzzy-feeling tug-towards-a-person way, hence a desire to love someone, not just a desire for someone), and you cannot love him/her to the extent of your desire, you feel the deepest pain. The reasons for not being able to love someone as much, or as deeply as you want to may vary.
For example, instead of the sense of despair over his own impending death, a father who is suffering from a terminal illness may feel more hurt because he cannot provide a safe and comfortable home for his family, and from knowing that he won't "be there" for his wife and kids when they need or want a husband and a father. Or a mother whose son is rejecting to receive his mother's care and runs away from home would feel hurt, which comes more from knowing that she will not be able to provide good care for her son (that is to love her son) than from the sense of rejection (ie. the sense of not being loved by the son). In a romantic relationship as well, this kind of hurt can and does exist, although it would be often over-shadowed by other more passionate and violent emotions.
All in all, this type of hurt, I believe, is one of the most profound kinds of human suffering because it stems from failing to fulfill one's deepest desire, and particularly for Christians who are spiritually awakened and being molded by God.

With this kind of thoughts starting to take root in my mind, which sprang up from my observation of people and also from my own experience, I wondered if there were any biblical bases for what I was learning through it, that our deepest desire is not always what it seems on the outside, namely, wanting to be loved, but, in fact, wanting to love. If it wasn't inline with the Bible, I wanted stop thinking in this way so that this idea would not take root in my mind, but I wasn't sure where to begin, and my mind was too distracted with other things to actually do some research of my own.

Yesterday, however, Justin Taylor's blog post (an excerpt from the book, "Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest" by Ed Welch) shed some light on it.
From the post (which is the excerpt from the book mentioned above):
Which do we really need—to give love or to receive it? We resist the question because we want to say both.

Yet Scripture seems to favor the imbalance. Not that we aspire to have our friend or spouse love us less, but that “in humility [we] consider others better than [our]selves” (Phil. 3:4). When the kingdom of God is ruling our hearts, we aspire more to serve than to be served, honor more than to be honored, and love more than be loved. This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about being loved; it simply means that we always want to outdo others in love.

Do we run the risk of a lopsided relationship? Absolutely. That is the relationship we have with God—he always loves first and most. . . . Throughout Scripture God is the one who loves more than he is loved. He always makes the first move. He advertises his extravagant affection for us even when we are indifferent or opposed to him.

When Jesus Christ, God incarnate, walked the earth, the pattern continued. Through his life Jesus was rejected by his people and misunderstood by his disciples. At the most difficult point of his life, he was betrayed, denied, and abandoned. But through it all his love was unwavering. In this, he established the pattern for true humanness. This is the way we were intended to be.

This is life in the kingdom. It wants love, but it wants even more to love others deeply. Its treasure is to grow in the fruits of the Spirit, foremost of which is to love others.

Longing to be able to love someone and feeling hurt because you cannot do so does not mean you are a better attuned to God's character, of course. It is to take up the challenge of the Biblical description of love and facing our daily lives with God's love that shows our character. However, embracing the fact that loving (as in giving love) is our greater need than being loved (ie. receiving love), and knowing that there is a hope who are in Christ that, one day, we will be able to love God and one another to the full capacity as designed by God, we can take comfort and draw strength when we are hurting and distraught for not being able to love someone.

By the way, the book, "Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest" sounds like a sound and helpful book, and it's on my Shelfari wishlist. ;-) If you want to get it for yourself, you can get it from here or here.


Sharon said...

Lopsided relationship. It's so true, but I don't like it.

Timothy Wonil Lee said...

Hard isn't it...