One thing I have been thinking about a lot this past summer is love, relationships, and control.
I did a series in July on past relationships with guys, and how painful it’s been for me. How manipulated, controlled, and violated I felt many times as I desperately tried to gain a boy’s love. I didn’t know what love was, and so I let guys walk all over me. I’d change everything for a guy if I thought that’d make him stay. I was attracted to abuse, and I mistook it for love. I have never, ever once felt that a guy loved me. He only wanted to control me.
This month, Boze Herrington took over my blog and wrote about being in an oppressive cult environment where everything was becoming increasingly controlled. Where the concept of the love of God became twisted to control a whole group of people. Where God’s love was withdrawn when people did not follow the leader’s every command.
I think it’s really hit me this summer.
Love is not about control.
It’s not about making someone look, act, think, or feel exactly like you do.
It’s not about making someone cater to your every whim or fancy.
It’s not about manipulation or force –even when it’s masked as something “spiritual.”
Love is about seeing the person as a person, about encouraging them to be all they can be, and about helping them face their brokenness with courage.
Love is about walking alongside another and giving them all the resources they need to blossom into who God has made them to be.
It can mean so many different things to so many different people.
Yet unlove comes when we force people to conform to our version of what we think they should be. It’s when we say, “Everyone must be a missionary and preach on corners. That is the holiest way to follow God.” Or, “Everyone better be really outgoing. God hates quiet people.” Or, “I don’t like that you drink sometimes, you’re sinning.” Or, “If you really loved me, you’d sleep with me.” Or any other thing someone can say to control your behavior.
This is so unlike God it makes me angry just thinking about it.
God loves each and every person–each and every broken, flawed individual in this world. He calls to each one lovingly, tenderly: “Come back to me. I love you, no matter how messed up you might feel. No matter how broken. No matter how confused. I can handle your darkness, your questions, your pain. Come to me.”
And yet, here’s the tricky part. Because God loves, He does call us out of brokenness. He calls us to wholeness, to holiness. He does tell us thing we should and shouldn’t do. And this can be a hard, hard battle. But God loves us too much to let us stay in the mire of our darkness. He calls us higher, He calls us to freedom. And He walks alongside us no matter how many times we stumble.
It’s a choice. The choice to embrace love, the choice to heal, the choice to find freedom in God…
The beautiful thing about God is that He never, ever forced us to love Him. He gave us a choice. That’s the beauty of true Christianity. A God who gave humans the chance to choose to love. To have free will. To respond to His love.
And yes, God’s love can draw us toward Him. God’s Spirit can speak and direct us. But God never forces us. He brings circumstances into our lives that direct us. Yet we can choose to follow Him or not.
How hard is this for God? The all-powerful God of the universe lets us have free will. He lets us choose to love Him. He lets us choose to reject Him. He beckons to us all, He died to save us, but He will never make us love Him.
Love is not love if it’s forced.
I’ve been in love. I’ve loved deeply. And my love has been rejected. I know what it’s like to reel from the pain of rejection. But let’s be honest–if the person I loved had been forced to love me back, wouldn’t it have been empty? If I could’ve made him love me, wouldn’t it have been cheap love? False love?
Real love is a choice.
And God wants us to choose. To choose Him.
It’s a dance. He asks, and we must respond. His Spirit leads, but we must follow. It’s give-and-take. And it’s the most beautiful dance we could could ever embark on.
But it’s not about control.