How do I know when love is really love?
I've found that real love is usually gonna cost me either time, money, or both. But to be honest I have sometimes spent my time and money, but didn't really love from an unselfish place. What motivated me to do that?
Take moving day for instance. I have helped people move when my heart wasn't in it. I did it because I "needed to," it was the right thing to do. I call it guilt induced love. A loving action without a lot of depth. I have also helped people from a sincere heart of love. What made the difference? Factors like: who I was helping, what the need was, if they'd helped me, if I was feeling like it, if the weather was good, if the atmosphere was more of a party and not a chore... Wow, it sounds so bad to put it into words!
Sometimes I have done loving acts of service to get love. I've realized this was selfish love and learned that people don't get love by giving love unless it's self love. Bargaining for love is bargain bin love. Love isn't a give-to-get commodity. Real love is a free gift with no strings attached. This was a sneaky one. Understanding my own heart motivation is not always easy so I've learned to ask myself a few honest questions.
1. Does doing this act of love feed my need for importance/value?
2. Is doing this act of love a bid for security in this relationship?
3. Will doing this act of love give me peace?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I have to step back, re-evaluate my motives and remember there are no strings attached to real love. Real love is not give-to-get love.
Jesus truly loved us to His death then rose again to give us forever love, but He was very clear about what real love is:
Mark 12:30-31. "The first and greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." NIV
Sometimes I never see the love till I get a hug at church and someone whispers, "I've been praying for you." I call that invisible love. Invisible love is good too. At other times a friend may write me a note of encouragement or just sit with me as I grieve a loss, or take their time to celebrate with me in my times of happiness. I also know people who love me dearly, but I rarely see them. However, if I needed them, their sacrificial arms and feet of love show me love. I love my children with unconditional invisible love all the time, but showing them visible, tangible love is needed too.
Receiving love is precious too. I'd helped prepare dinners for others in their time of need, but not until I was down and my family needed help did I realize just how wonderful receiving love felt. Oddly, at first, I found it awkward to receive. I had to push my prideful "self"out of the way to receive love. We all need help sometimes.
Jesus is the ultimate example of self-sacrificial love. He genuinely loved beyond himself and died to pay our sin debt so we can have eternal life with Him. This precious, free gift is paid for and waiting to be personally claimed. That gift called to my heart for longer than I want to admit. For some reason, it was hard to take that first step toward Him. I didn't fully understand it all but when I finally did ask Jesus into my heart I was so sorry I hadn't done it sooner. There was no, "What took you so long?" Just the sweetest, clearest surety that something wonderful had happened because I'd dropped my pride to receive His unconditional love.
Embracing the love of Jesus and letting it seep into the needy places in my soul changed my motivation to love. I found that real love is possible. But it was very hard to give it till I learned to love beyond myself-ishness. It's easy to want to fall back into my old selfish ways. BUT when I'm tempted, I feel a gentle internal nudge to live freely, love freely, and I'm happiest when I receive the nudge.
How about you? Have you ever found yourself living in Myself-ishness?
Unselfish Love makes a soul beautiful!
In our quest to be beautified within we see in the Bible that our heroine, Queen Esther, loved beyond herself. She risked her life to save her people.
In John 15:13 Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this; to lay down one's life for one's friends." NIV