Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Love Languages & Bling

My dear mother-in-law has given me expensive and beautiful jewelry for as long as I have known her. As a young bride, her gifts didn't really do that much for me since I was not a big bling kind of girl. Being more practical, I would have preferred a blender. In the early days I even questioned her love because gifts really aren’t my love language.

And then there’s my spouse. At the beginning of our marriage, I put a huge burden on him to love me the way I wanted to be loved and was not willing to see his expressions of love in other ways.

And more currently, there is someone else in my life who demands that I show my love (prove my verbal declaration) by doing what they want. They have dictated one way, and one way only that I can prove I love them. No matter how much I declare my love, they fail to receive it because it is not expressed as they desire.

This whole idea of being loved the way I want to be loved has gotten me thinking again about God’s love. If you have read any of my blog posts or heard a number of my devotionals or known me for some time, you know that I talk a lot about God's love. (If you haven't read about God's Lavish Love, please do.) I harp on this theme because it has been so transformational in my own life. That may surprise you because I came from a good background with parents who loved me in a stable home. I was encouraged to use my gifts and praised for them. I was happy and confident.

My road to deprivation came when I was a young adult, alone at university, away from my home for four straight years. My need for family pushed me towards other people and I became a target for co-dependency. In a moment of tutoring, God directed me to hand over all my loved ones, both near and afar, to him and to release my gaping need for them. What followed this tearful relinquishing was the beginning of sweet intimacy with my Lord and a journey of learning to let him satisfy all my needs. 

However, as is typical for humans, I did the pendulum swing, and greatly withdrew from deep human relationships. I declared (vows are never a good thing) that I would not need  another human being like that again until God gave me a husband. What a set up! So when I received the blessing of another human to love til death parted us, I heaved all my pent up needs for human intimacy onto his unsuspecting, broken soul. And thus, I felt unloved for the very first time by the very one I had expected would love me most. And hence my desperate crash course in God's love for me.

David Benner in Sacred Companions says "If we are to become great lovers, we must return again and again to the great love of the Great Lover...Our primary assignment in this school is not so much study and practice as letting ourselves be deeply loved by our Lord." 

I have already written about reasons that we may be blocked from receiving God’s love through the Cup Illustration. Today I am thinking about whether our preferences for how we like to be loved, our love languages if you will, are keeping us from letting ourselves be loved by God.
 
God has shown his love to me in one rather amazing way. He sent his Son to die in my place (I John 4:9-10, Romans 5:8). But I confess that this demonstration is often too far removed from my daily life. It doesn't always "speak my language" so I don't feel loved. I'd prefer that he prove he loves me by giving me what I want. If you loved me, you'd heal my cancer. If you really loved me, you'd give me a child or a husband or a friend. You don't love me because my life is so hard. I will know you love me if you fix my marriage or provide a job.
 
I suggest that the state of being loved is not dependent on whether I get what I want or even if I feel loved. It depends on the lover. I cannot say that God doesn't love me because I don't get what I want. I need to look at who he is and trust that when he says "I love you" that it is true, not matter how I feel. 
 
So, when I make demands of God, insisting that he love me this way, or that way, then I am not trusting, believing, receiving and knowing the love that is there for me already. God set the terms. He determined how he wanted to show his love. Dying on the cross would not have been my choice. I would not have thought of that as the ultimate demonstration of love. It seems weird. And yet it makes me go back to the foundation. Back to him. Back to the cross. Again, David Benner explains how to know myself as loved by God:
“I meditate on his love, allowing my focus to be on him and his love for me, not me and my love for him. And slowly things begin to change. My heart slowly begins to warm and soften. I begin to experience new levels of love for God.”
What I have discovered is that as I began to experience new levels of love for God, I also began to live out what Paul prayed for believers in Ephesians 3:19: that I would know (experience and feel) this love that surpasses knowledge. And as I grow in knowing God’s love, I am getting better at loving others and receiving their love - in any language.
 
Over time, as I have learned to let myself be loved by God, I have learned to also let myself be loved by both my mom-in-law and my husband. I know now that they really do love me and I can accept their expressions of love as they choose to give them.
 
Eventually my kitchen has been filled with many items from my in-laws. And I have even grown to love the bling! My spouse works hard to demonstrate his love and I now appreciate his long conversations and creative dates. As for the other one, I will continue to show love in the ways that I can and pray that someday, they will be able to let me love them once again.
 
What have you demanded that God do for you in order to prove his love?
What are some of the many ways God has already shown his love for you?
How can you change your focus from yourself (and your love languages) to the Great Lover?

Prayer: Lord, this moment I think of you, not simply about you. Teach me to become attentive to your presence with me. Teach me to spend time gazing on you, being still before you and focused on you. Help me to listen to you so that I will believe your demonstrations of love and know you as the Great Lover.