A year ago, I was so sure I’d figured it out. “Love is not a sacrifice,” I adamantly declared to everyone around me. “Love has to be a joy. We sacrifice because we love, like God sacrificed for us. But love itself is not a sacrifice.”
I’ve thought a lot about love this year. I think I grew up with the mindset that when time passed and love got old and was more about serving and giving than feelings, it wasn’t love anymore, it was obligation. Love should be thrilling, electric, the most natural and easy thing in the world. But now, I’m not so sure about that.
Because in a world that screams “never settle,”
that’s exactly what God did.
He looked at us,
A bunch of broken, selfish, messed-up sinners,
and said, “Them.”
“Those are the ones I want.”
He settled for us.
He could have destroyed us all and started over.
He could have changed the human heart to serve and love Him by nature.
He could have done a whole lot of things.
But He didn’t.
He chose to sacrifice instead.
Because that’s what love does. That’s what love is. Love, when it counts, is a sacrifice.
And sacrifice isn’t convenient, or easy, or the most logical choice. That doesn’t mean it’s crazy or irrational in the way that we think of irrational love – leaving everything behind for someone you’ve just met, moving across the world on a whim. That sort of love is driven by a feeling, and I know that were I to love like that, I’d move across the world and promptly turn around when it ceased to be as glamorous as I once thought.
But God doesn’t love like that, acting on an emotion He was overcome with because it seemed like a nice idea. He had all of eternity past to consider what He’d do when we would inevitably turn away from Him, and He chose to act in a way that would make no sense to us – He gave everything for the people He loves.
Love is a lavish gift, a calculated choice to freely give something completely undeserved.
God doesn’t love us because we’re good – He loves us because He’s good.
And I want to love like that, too.
There’s a parking lot not too far from where I live, surrounding a few restaurants and stores that I end up at probably once a week. There’s nothing special about this parking lot, nothing romantic or lovely about it – in fact, it’s quite loud, far from private, and humming with activity most days of the week. But somehow, it’s a place that’s held so many deep and long conversations with many of my favorite people.
It is in this parking lot late at night during one of these conversations that I find myself relaying a truth told so many times to me: “God knew what He was taking on when He took on you.”
In times of failure, of disappointing the people I love, of dealing with the guilt and shame that accompany life as a human being painfully self-aware of my shortcomings, this has brought me comfort. God knew what He was getting into when He chose to love us, and He didn’t run.
He knew. Our God knew all the baggage we’d bring to the table. And He wanted us anyway. Our God settled, and He delighted in doing it.
This year, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to actively love when the subjects of our affection are flawed and our capacity for desire and craving for perfection are limitless.
As someone who used to be among the enthusiastic, idealistic hordes of people shouting, “NEVER SETTLE,” I think I’m starting to change my tune. I think that in a broken world as this one, we’re always going to be settling for something, and so we’re brought to a decision: is this worth it to love anyway?
I’m not saying we should ask and answer that question lightly. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use wisdom and discernment in the choices we make, because of course we should.
But if we decide that love is worth it, then settle and settle well. Settle well and love hard, because people will never be perfect but we can choose to love them fiercely and freely like God does. Because perhaps we’ve made love out to be something given in exchange for perfection, a transaction of a sort, and we’ve forgotten that God has never ever loved us like that.
Love is a sacrifice. It’s a joy, it’s a privilege, it’s a delight, it’s a gift – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or deserved.
God settled. He sacrificed. He gave a preposterously wayward world exorbitant amounts of grace. And if God says people are worth loving like that, then maybe we should love that way too.