Written by Christine Shen
Illustrated by Jessie Lo
This is Part II of our series on “What is Love”. In the first part, writer Christine shared about the limitations of human love in a disappointed romantic relationship. In part two, she goes deeper to share with us two very important lessons she learns not only from her own disappointments in love but also from realizations about her own limitations, leading her to deeper understanding of God’s love shaped by the truth of who He is.
Love is…letting go of fear.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
The more I valued this relationship, the more I feared losing it. I eventually discovered that, deep down in the core of my being, I carried with me fears of rejection and abandonment, which extended to other relationships and often prevented me from forming deeper connections with others.
These fears translated into irrational behaviors. For example, the absence of security in this relationship drove me to seek out constant proof of love. Does he really love me? How much does he care? These questions plagued my mind and kept me from experiencing constant peace.
When this relationship finally toppled, I was beneath ruins, trapped in a dungeon of despair. My self-worth had become tied up in the affections of one man; without him I was nothing. I feared I would never again find “true” love. There must be something wrong with me, I thought. That’s why our relationship didn’t work out. I could relate to the apostle Paul’s sentiment of being “the chief of sinners.” And I believed no one could ever love me, because I was unacceptable.
Then, in the midst of self-rejection, I experienced God’s love. Why, God, would you love a sinful person like me – to the point of giving everything! – when I would not do the same for me?
In my heartbreak, God allowed me to experience the love that I have always wanted – a love that my ex couldn’t give me, a love that I couldn’t even give myself. It was God’s Love that shone a light on my heart, on all the doubt and darkness within me.
Eventually, my sadness over the loss of my ex’s love transformed into sadness that I had not loved him enough. As I explored this maze of a breakup, I came across 1 John 4:18; I was convicted that I had been relating to this brother – not in genuine, Christ-like love – but in fear.
I began praying that God would perfect my love for this brother and for others. Over time, God taught me that I don’t need this brother’s love to be fulfilled, because I have all the love I need from God, in abundant supply. And He has begun to free me from my fears so that I can live a life of genuine Christ-like love, without demanding others love me in return.
Love is…giving your best, without expecting to receive.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Formerly, my understanding of love had been shaped by my insecurity. I believed I needed another’s love to validate my lovability; therefore, I was afraid to lose my ex’s love because I felt that, without it, I would be empty. Today, my understanding of love is rooted in the confidence that Jesus Christ loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). I know I am loved, and worth loving, even when I don’t have another person’s affections.
Moreover, I have learned that love is not about being loved. True love seeks not to possess but to bless. It is about giving and sharing the love in our hearts that comes from God. Through this blessed, painful experience, I have tasted God’s goodness. God is good, because He has done much more than just bind the wounds from this relationship; He has enlarged my capacity to give love and has taught me the important lesson that no relationship between two sinful people can ever fully satisfy.
I have come to understand that no man can kiss our lips and awaken us from our deep slumber. The poisoned apple of sin has no remedy other than the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our true Prince of Peace.
Christine Shen graduated from UCLA, is in full-time ministry as an event coordinator at Presence, loves to encourage self-awareness in herself and others, and believes that life is an epic adventure.
(Adapted from RE:NEW Magazine, February 2016, Issue 5)