Wasteland Kings

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Unconditional love makes me uncomfortable. It sounds like a wonderful thing in my head. I talk about it every time I give my testimony.

It still makes me anxious and my heart doesn’t trust it.

These observations are a new discovery for me. They came up while doing my homework for Regeneration last week. Until last week I would’ve told you unconditional love is one of the things I want most in the world.

The problem with this claim is I can find little evidence of it in my life. More often than not I run after ways to earn love instead of leaning on unconditional love. How I receive praise or compliments is a good example of this.

My tendency is to enjoy a compliment for about ten seconds. After those seconds end, I start to think about how I need to work harder.

If someone praised my writing, I think about ways to write better. If someone compliments my work ethic, I consider ways I can be more disciplined. If I hear encouragement about losing weight, I remind myself that I NEED to hit that weight goal.

It’s not an inherently bad thing to set higher expectations for yourself. It is a bad thing to zone out in the middle of someone complimenting you. It’s an especially bad thing to miss the joy and gratitude which comes from hearing praise.

The Bible clearly tells us to encourage one another and build each other up.(Hebrews 10:24-25) I can’t receive such things if I’m zoned out and thinking about what I need to do better. Missing out is just the symptom though and not the problem.

The problem is I’m more interested in earning more love than I am in experiencing the love I have. This is the heart behind zoning out in the middle of a long compliment. I want the sense of control which comes from earning love more than I want love itself.

This last week I had a moment where this desire for control became clear to me. I was thinking about dating, which is an idol of mine, and a realization hit me quite hard. It’s never going to be enough.

The best dating relationship, an engagement, and a healthy marriage will never be enough to satisfy me; only God can do that. In this moment, I realized my heart wants the sense of control I’d get from dating and marriage more than I want them for their own sake.

Loneliness is one of my greatest struggles. I’m terrified of living the rest of my life alone. The sense of control I can get from dating and the possibility of marriage feels like a protection against loneliness.

Unconditional love on the other hand does not bring the same sense of control or feeling of protection. I can’t create it and I can’t make it increase so it feels unreliable. It can leave me with more questions than answers.

My pastors like to say ‘feelings are real, but they’re not reliable.’ This is true and very hard to accept at the same time. My feelings about conditional and unconditional love are quite strong.

Conditional love seems safe because it relies on what I do and therefore I have some control over it. Unconditional love doesn’t feel safe because it just depends on God or the person unconditionally loving me. Though it feels counterintuitive, I must step away from safety in this instance.

Conditional love will seem safe up until I realize I’m a broken person whose seeking to rely on other broken people. A good friend of mine pointed out that I can’t rely on a person to give me all the love I desire. People can be unreliable, flaky, and downright hurtful.

No person will ever be able to give me enough love. My heart has a God sized hole in it and only God has enough love to fill it. This is a powerful truth and yet I still don’t like it at times.

I want something I can control. I want something which relies on me. I want something which doesn’t need the difficult thing called trust.

Even those points break down though. I know I’m not good enough to earn nearly enough love to satisfy my heart. Even if I found a completely reliable source of love, I can’t do enough good on a consistent enough basis to earn the love my heart wants.

These are the truths which bounce around inside my head and heart this week. I still wrestle with them because change tends to be slow. I am learning to be grateful for this slowness though.

My heart doesn’t like to be rushed. It appears God’s work in my heart and life is done with this in mind. I appreciate it very much.

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Reflections on Recovery
A Dull Blade

Matthew Rial