Because I’m a young single twenty-something, people often offer me advice about relationships.
They tell me to make sure I’m not being taken for granted.
To make sure I’m getting something back in return.
To make sure the relationships I enter into are two-way streets.
To make sure that I’m appreciated. That my gestures are reciprocated.
I brought you a cupcake at work. Now it’s your turn to bring me one.
And I appreciate all of you people giving me this advice. I know it comes from love. It comes from wanting to see the person you care for valued in her relationships. It comes from being protective. But I have news for you:
I don’t want that 50/50 relationship you’re talking about.
I want every relationship I enter into – friendship and dating – to be one that I go into with the kind of unbridled love that bursts from the seams. And this won’t be possible if I’m paranoid about being taken advantage of.
I want my friends and any future or past romantic partner to think of generosity and selflessness when they hear my name. And this won’t be possible if I’m tallying up my sacrifices to make sure I only give as much as I get.
I want to love the people in my life with the sacrificial love of Jesus. And He didn’t compromise in His love for us.
He didn’t say to us: I’ll meet you halfway if you meet me halfway. He didn’t tally things up.
He gave us His blood. He went gave us His everything. He went all in for us while we were still sinners, without us loving Him first.
He loved us because He is love. He knew that we could never return the favor, that we could never pay Him back for his perfect sacrificial love, yet He loved us anyway and gave us everything anyway.
I want to love others with that kind of love. That Jesus love. That agape love.
A love that’s concerned with the other person more than with yourself.
A love that gives to them without keeping score.
A love that’s focused on their well-being, not on what you can get in return.
Jesus says: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13: 34 – 35)
He commands us to love one another, but He leaves out the conditions.
He doesn’t tell us, “Love your neighbor if He loves you.”
He doesn’t tell us to be kind only if the kindness will be returned.
He commands us to love other people, regardless of whether or not they reciprocate that love.
We are not to love one another in order to get something in return.
We are to love one another because that is the way God has loved us.
Of course, committing to this kind of love scares me because this will inevitably lead to a time when I am taken advantage of. When my love is thrown back into my face. When someone takes from me.
I recently got out of a situation where I felt like someone had been draining my love, taking from me without ever giving anything back. When it ended at the beginning of July, it was like a slap in the face. I felt taken advantage of. Used. Duped. All the hurt and pain that my friends wanted to guard me from ever being exposed to.
But I do not and never will regret how much of myself I gave.
Even though my ego was stomped on, I am proud of the love I lived out. I can now say that I experienced giving without expecting something in return. That I know how it feels to love with the unconditional kind of love that Jesus had for us. How can I regret that for even a moment?
Loving without expectation of receiving anything in return is to love with an agape love. To begin to sacrifice for others. To begin to deny ourselves. To begin to submit to others.
Sacrifice. Dying-to-self. Submission. These are weighty subjects to talk to about. Even weightier is living them out. Weightier still is living them out without the other person returning the favor. That happened and it stomped on my pride – BIG time.
But the experience did not discourage me from my promise to love others unconditionally. (Except for the first few minutes afterwards when I was all: Never again. Adios, Humanity.)
I’m doing it because that’s the thing to do, not because they might love me back.
I’m doing it because I can only control my own actions, not how they react.
But most of all, I am not discouraged because these weighty topics are weighty just like the cross is weighty. Just like Jesus Christ is weighty.
When I experience giving without return, loving without reciprocation, and the sacrifice and selflessness that comes with continuing to love in spite of that experience, when I take on that weight, I start to understand the weight that Jesus Christ took on for us. The weight of His love. The weight of His sacrifice.
Doing life and relationships in this way, in a way that looks more like Him and less like flesh, is a sacred gift.
It’s a gift that I give to myself each and every day because the more I love like Him, the more I understand His love for me and the more I understand His unyielding love for me, the closer He and I get. And THAT is a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Nina is a twenty-something dreamer living in Philly. She uses her degree in Art History to write things about being a Christian girl in the twenty-first century at her blog, TheTreasuredGirl.com. You can also find her daily adventures in grace on Twitter (@NinaSPakdi) or on her main website, NinaSinghapakdi.com. When she’s not writing about God or art, she’s loves baking, working up a sweat, crafting, urban adventures in her city, Indie coffee shops, and curling up with a good book.