I love Bon Iver's cover of Bonnie Raitt's hauntingly beautiful "I Can't Make You Love Me," .
This post is not specifically about romantic love -- although it is certainly included in the broadest sense of love. This post is about a love that cannot be stifled in us -- or in the world.
Paul writes in Romans that:
"I am persuaded, that
neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, more any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God..."
And Mary Baker Eddy further assures her readers in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"Divine Love cannot be deprived
of its manifestation or object."
As a girl - and young woman - I thought that I needed someone's permission to love them. Without reciprocity, I was stuck with either seeing myself as having a crush on someone, envious of an experience, or being a stalker. I didn't want to be thought ridiculous, so if someone didn't love me, or want my love in return, I was willing to accept that I was just a broken heart -- waiting.
But a series of life lessons -- along with the encouragement of the two above-quoted passages -- changed all of that.
The first, was a call to return the son we were adopting to his birthmother. The second was having someone I loved, fall out of love with me. And the third was discovering that a family member, whom I loved, had never really felt the same way about me. These experiences were individually and collectively awakening. One, no more, than the other.
In each case, I felt like I had to stop loving. Or at least, I needed to adjust the volume of my devotion, re-think the intensity my affections, or, ratchet down my expectations in the relationship. As if, someone else's love for me -- or the role they played (or didn't play) in my life -- was a permission I needed to justify loving them.
One night, while praying in the dark, Bonnie Raitt's song rose in my heart. It was arresting -- because at that moment I was not praying about a romantic relationship -- which this song seemed so obviously about. I was praying for freedom from how small I felt about loving something that was emotionally inaccessible.
Bonnie's song slipped in. And in the midst of that self-doubt, I suddenly realized that it didn't matter whether or not someone loved me. Or, in the case of the son we'd been adopting, was "mine." I wasn't waiting for permission. I was the unconditional expression of Love. Period. The conditions didn't need to be "optimal" for me to exercise my right to love. I could no more stop loving them -- or controlling the amount of love I felt for them -- than I could tell the sun to stop shining.
And I didn't want to. I loved them. That was all I knew. I didn't love them to own them. I didn't love them because I thought it would result in an outcome that would make me feel better about myself. I loved them because it was who I was. I loved them because God had put that love in my heart for a holy purpose. Even if I might not know what it was, on any given day.
So I stopped looking for permission -- and just loved. Fully, completely, boldly, fiercely, stupidly - according to those who had some pretty strong opinions about my willingness to love "even though." Sometimes this love asked things of me that I never would have imagined. To surrender, to accept, to step back, or to step even more deeply into the darkness. But it was no longer about what someone else thought or felt about me. It was about my right to love. It was about obedience to the Love that was moving in my heart.
This kind of love is empowering. Nothing can take it from you. And no one can deprive you of the power you have to truly love someone. Even if that means cherishing their gifts from afar -- or praying for the grace to see them move forward in a direction that might look like it is away from you.
It's the same with the things we love. If you love writing, write. Write with all your heart. You do not need to wait for a certain number of readers to validate you, or a publisher to give you their stamp of approval -- or a publishing contract. You are empowered by the love you feel, for whatever it is that God has put in your heart. Love it fully. If you love the practice of law -- don't wait for the opportunity to attend law school, love the practice of law wherever you see it. In nature, in government, in the inscrutable power of divine Love.
And since we are completely incapable of controlling love -- perhaps its time to stop trying. Just love. Not in a possessive way, but in a "here am I, send me..." kind of way. The object (or focus) of our affections may seem to be self-assigned - "I choose to love you." But here is what I know -- it is always God-appointed. So trust it. Love what - and who - you have been moved to love. Whether they love you back, or not, you will still feel the power.
Whether that loving results in a life-long partnership, a larger family, or an outcome that is worthy of writing a self-help primer on "having it all," - it doesn't matter. Love isn't a means to an end. Love is everything. Loving is everything.
Love, truly, cannot be deprived of the object of its affections. Love is not something you get. Love is all that you - already - are. So if you want to feel the power of who you are - just love.
offered with Love,