I grew up moving around from state to state, the daughter of an Army officer. When I left a place, I rarely returned. And if I did return, almost no one I knew was still there. That was the reality of living in the Army world – not only did I move around, but everyone – friends, neighbors, teachers, pastors, doctors, piano teachers – moved too. Life moved on drastically. Always the new girl, I belonged nowhere. I lived in a world in which I only existed for that particular moment.
So, without realizing it, I created The List, which I’ve only just recently written into words what my heart knew as life.
1. Relationships are insecure and fragile.
2. I am replaceable, unnoticed, and will be forgotten.
3. I have to work hard to get friends, never being any trouble to anyone because they don’t need me since they already have friends.
4. Eventually people will move on from me, it’s only a matter of time. Friendships and their love don’t last.
These are just a few of the items on the List. To summarize, I’ve lived my life desperate for relationships. When you move around as often as every six months to three years, you spend many months accumulating to years, friendless. I’ve latched onto friendships, wishing desperately they’d last, while knowing they just could not. I was in an impossible situation. I would do whatever it took to get people to be my friend, knowing that someday they would stop being my friend. I held both tightly and loosely to friendships, expecting everything and nothing, hoping for eternity, settling for a moment.
BUT I have an amazing God who isn’t willing to let me settle for a life of conditional love, fear and insecurity. He has been working hard on my heart, replacing life’s disappointing reality with eternity’s holy truth.
I’ve learned that if I can love people and not even worry if they love me back, freedom would replace fear. I’m learning that it may even be possible that God’s love for me is big enough to fill me to the point of abundance so I’d have overflow to give others, no matter if no love, or even if pain, was returned. The eternal, unfailing friendship I have yearned for (but have believed just couldn’t exist), does, in fact, exist in God.
So, I’ve made a new list that I’m trying to have the courage to live.
1. God notices me. He wants me. He will NEVER forget me. He will NEVER move on from me.
2. I do not have to, and cannot, earn His friendship. He freely gives it, pursuing me, and enjoys when I pursue Him.
3. I must stop trying to earn the love of people. God’s love is more than enough. Human love will always pale in comparison to His love. But when humans (including me) love with God’s love, then it is powerful and lasts forever.
4. I should love others with the goal of allowing God’s love to overflow to them and not with the goal of hoping they’ll love me back.
Even as I cautiously put into practice my new list, I still have many questions. For instance, has God allowed my human relationships to fail so I would yearn for His unfailing love? Could I break free from the desperation of needing others’ love because I have a perfect love from God? And for a particularly soul-searching question: If I am loving others with the hope that they will love me back, am I truly loving them, or just doing to others what I fear they will do to me? Could it be possible that love is only true if it is unconditional, selfless and God-given?
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16.