What is love? What does it mean to love? For centuries people have sought an answer. Words beyond counting have been written in an attempt to define it. Poets have extoled its virtues. Psychologists have studied it. Is it a feeling, an action, a choice to commit regardless of the consequences? Is it a biological imperative driven by chemical reactions? How we answer this question plays a critical role in how we live our lives.
When I was 20, I made a choice that deeply and directly affected my life, and the lives of three other people and indirectly effected several others. I was single, pregnant and completely on my own. When I discovered that I was pregnant there were two things I knew immediately and unequivocally. I would NOT have an abortion and I had exactly NOTHING to give this child. I couldn’t care for or feed myself on a regular basis, much less a child. In addition, I had a mountain of emotional baggage that made Mount Everest look like a casual climb.
I prayed for guidance. The answer I got back was adoption. That was the hardest and the easiest choice of my ENTIRE life.
It was the hardest choice I have ever made, because even though she was unplanned, she was NOT unloved or unwanted. There was nothing I wanted MORE in life than a child and a loving, happy family. The further along I got, the more I loved the child that was growing inside me. Feeling her move, discovering her responses to everthing from music to food, forged a bond with her in my heart long before I saw her precious little face for the first time. Letting go of this beautiful, perfect little girl that had shared my body for 9 months, this baby that represented everything I hoped for and so deeply desired out of life, was the single most heartbreaking choice I have ever made. It wounded me in ways I am still trying to fully understand 36 years later.
At the same time, it was utterly simple. When they placed her in my arms for the first time, I realized just how profound a task raising this child would be. I would be fully responsible for every aspect of her care, nurture and development. That realization hit me like the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs. There was NO DOUBT in my mind or soul that I wasn’t up to the task, not even a little bit. So, I let her go to a couple that could give her all the things I could not.
What that taught me is that love, at its core, isn’t about my happiness. Love is other centered not self-centered. It’s about what is in the best interest of another, especially if that other doesn’t have the power to act on their own behalf. Over the years God has refined this understanding of love. I have come to believe that the essence of love is self-sacrifice. Love doesn’t sacrifice the object of its affection on the altar of personal happiness. It sacrifices itself for the benefit of that which is loved.
We are approaching the celebration of Easter, the greatest example of love in all of history. Jesus chose to lay aside His power and divinity and live in the muck and mess of life with us. He was “a man of deep sorrows who was no stranger to suffering and grief” (Isaiah 53:3 TPT). He gave up His personal happiness to bridge the chasm of sin that lay between us and God. He who never sinned, became sin and bore the penalty, so that we could experience reconciliation with God and live in God’s gracious lovingkindness and abundance. He sacrificed Himself to restore the brokenness our sin caused. He did this even though we despised and rejected Him. He sacrificed Himself for the benefit of that which He loved; us.
Love is more than a feeling, more than a biological imperative. It is more than an action or a commitment. It is the self-sacrifice of a sinless man hanging from a cross of shame, bearing the consequences of OUR sin so that we could live our best lives, even if it cost Him His own life.
May this Easter season be the beginning of your experience of REAL love. May it be the restoration of whatever wounds you are carrying. May you come to know personally and intimately, the one who gave His life for you and me. Turn to Him. Invite Him into your life. Accept Him as Lord and Savior. If we accept this gift, we will come to understand what REAL love is and it will transform and restore every fiber of our beings now and for eternity.