The Quest for Authentic Love (c)
Paul R. Shockley, Ph.D
25 October 2015
One of the deepest longings we have is to authentically love and truly be loved in return. We strongly desire to have this real need met and will spend an enormous amount of energy, resources, and thought to make it happen. In fact, we will give up most if not all of our goals to see this desire ultimately satisfied.
Along this quest for authentic love, full acceptance, and to be able to love in return, many of us have made some tragic mistakes thinking that we would find love in a particular person or in some activity. Instead, what we discovered was quite the opposite, namely, emptiness, loss, pain, regret, and shame. But even with certain costs that have been extracted from us, I suspect some of us have had glimpses or foretastes of this greatest love we are looking for in different ways and at different times.
As young children many of us have experienced the love of a nurturing parent (s) or parent figure (s). They loved us the best they could given their background, difficulties, knowledge, opportunities, resources, and successes. Notwithstanding, some of us have not been so fortunate for certain "personal baggage," personality conflicts, and bad habits that emerged wreaking havoc on our personhood, our relationships, and opportunities. Perhaps your home, which should have been a haven, became a "war zone." Love and forgiveness seem foreign to your formidable years of growing up. Consequently, those young years, which were so tough, can cause us to even question whether this love we long for is just wishful thinking, an illusion born out of deep-seated pain. But even if the search for love is suspiciously perceived as a way to escape from one's situation or the hauntings of the past, the longing to be truly loved and love in return remains.
Then most of us, I suspect, have dreamed big about the love we would experience in "marital bliss." A day does not go by that we do not think about that special someone who will take our breath away from morning to night and then some. "Here is the person who will accept me as I truly am!" Ah, those heavenly dreams! Even as the honeymoon fades and the “grind of life” becomes all too common with all of its hardships, monotonies, and trials, we affirm marriage is tough but definitely good! Your spouse is not only your lover, but also your best friend. Still, even as good as marriage may be, we discover marital love has not fulfilled our deepest longings of love.
For other couples, our marriages are not fitting the ideals we had developed in our minds. Subsequently, in the wake of shattered expectations, there is pain, the marring and scarring of choices made, and costly words exchanged. We have deep regrets and are resigned to work it out but with the reality that "love is now mixed with grief." Forgiveness is difficult but possible. Others of us have given up on marriage and are in an ongoing quest to find it in another lover, and another...going from relationship to relationship. Then there are some who are ever searching for but never finding that “perfect” mate. Why?
Perhaps we will find this love we are looking for in our children. While we do have this ferocious, unbelievable, and perhaps un-analyzable love for our children, we still hunger for more.
We may even try to find this love in certain activities, hobbies, and projects that care for the afflicted, the disabled, the outcasts, and the troubled. In the longing to love others we find incredible rewards such as true gratitude and the joy of serving. But even here with all of the true and good pleasures experienced, I suspect we long for more. Not even self-love can bring about the love we are looking for given both vaporous and selfishness qualities of our finite human nature.
Could it be this pursuit of this ultimate love cannot be met in anything finite, vaporous, and earthy? Could it be that we were originally created to experience ultimate love in an infinite and personal God? Could it be that all the love we do experience from nurturing patents, marital love, raising children, friends, activities, and special acts of humanitarian service, are all road signs that point us to even a greater love? Said differently, is it possible that these punctuated moments of love in the midst of the daily grind and our frailties serve as a foretaste of what God Himself can alone can ultimately give?
Adapting an insight from C. S. Lewis' "Meditation in a Tool Shed," I've come to thinking of love in two different but related ways, namely, not only (1) to learn to enjoy and treasure the love I do experience in both receiving and giving in my dealings with others [horizontal level], but to also follow or trace that love to the One who is the sum-total of His infinite perfections [vertical level]. When I look at those moments of love in my earthly spheres of living life, and see the beauty, the commitment, the cost, the goodness, the intentions, and the rewards, I am sincerely thankful. But why so restless even here? Why satisfied but not fully satisfied? But when I follow the incredible blessings of love experienced in marriage, children, deep friendships, and acts of love to its ultimate source, the one and only Triune God of the Bible, I am overwhelmed!
Take Calvary, for example. When I reflect upon the horrific crucifixion of Jesus Christ, I see alienation, injustice, mockery, suffering, pain, and death. But I also see the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, who willingly died on the cross for you and me in fulfillment of biblical prophecies like Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Jesus Christ took your place on Calvary so you can be forgiven, reconciled, redeemed, and secure for all eternity as His child. The only condition to receive this unmerited gift of eternal life is to place your trust in Him. But when I follow these rich acts of grace to the Trinity discovering that our infinite and personal God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life, I fall to my knees in humble gratitude!
See, here is God, who loves you and me with an infinite, perfect love, even though He accurately and exhaustively knows all things about everyone of us including our darkest thoughts, our past with all of its compromises, deceptions, failures, acts of rebellions, and our futures with all its brokenness, disappointments, and self-centeredness. God's love cannot change even with all the precarious circumstances we encounter, bad decisions made, or vices that emerge. Here our restlessness finds its "Match-maker." In Him we are fully accepted! In Him we are truly satisfied!
Though in God I experience His perfect love as I walk through a wide range of experiences such as the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I find myself yearning for that future day when I will fully be in His presence before His heavenly throne where no distraction, frailties, or physical limitations will keep me from fully worshipping the One who created me, who loves me as I am because of what Christ did for me (regardless of his accurate assessment and absolute knowledge of every aspect of my life), and who also gives me the privilege to call Him "DAD." I am in Christ and Christ is in me!
This unconditional and intimate truth of infinite love is available to you when you place your trust in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, who died on the cross for sins and who rose bodily from the dead. Tell Him today. Go to Him in prayer and receive this love-gift of salvation in the open arms of faith and experience a love relationship that will last for all eternity.
One final thought...
"We desire truth and find in ourselves nothing but uncertainty. We seek happiness and find only wretchedness and death. We are incapable of not desiring truth and happiness and incapable of either certainty or happiness." ~ Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 401 (437). I submit the same thought when it is comes to ultimate love. We desire ultimate love and can't find it in ourselves. We seek ultimate love and we see only glimpses of it in the midst of wretchedness and death. We are incapable of not desiring ultimate love and are incapable of generating ultimate love but capable of receiving ultimate love from God who created us.