Press pause on life for a moment and ask yourself this very important question: ‘Do I truly understand unconditional love?’
Hubby and I were out and about this past weekend soaking up the unusually warm sunny weather and spending time together. One activity we enjoy is going ‘Goodwill hunting’. There are several good thrift stores in our area and we’ve found some awesome deals. After hanging out in a Barnes and Noble for a bit, I had the urge to go Goodwill hunting because I couldn’t bring myself to pay full price for a book…since thrift store books are usually $3 at most. That’s the problem when you consistently find good deals – you never want to pay full retail ever again! (and I know it’s partially in my DNA thanks to my thrift store frequenting father and my mom whose best friend is ‘Clarence’…known to everyone else as ‘Clearance’.) There is just something about the thrill of the hunt and euphoria that comes from finding a brand new or lightly used item for much less than you would’ve paid in a store! Ok, this post isn’t really about thrifting and all this talk is making me want to ‘save draft’ to go shopping so I should probably move on…
Unfortunately, we made it to Goodwill toward the end of the day so most all of the good stuff was already gone but I did find a very lightly used copy of a best-selling book on my ‘want to read list’ for $1. One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind after finding the book was ‘oooh I should Instagram/FB this and the fact that I found it at Goodwill for only $1!!!’ and then I thought ‘but why?!’
Why did I really want to share this $1 book for hundreds of people to see? Yeah I could say that it’s because fellow deal-seeking friends would join me in celebrating my thrifty find, but really, it’s because I know the book is popular and the post would get likes. The world would definitely not be changed by my picture of a $1 copy of the book but in a small way, I would somehow feel happy about myself because others liked something I did that is currently considered popular. If we’re really honest with ourselves, isn’t that why most social media posts exist??? Why else do we have meme’s saying ‘don’t compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel’ and why are some people’s feeds just full of their fancy vacations and food choices and outfits?
Social media absolutely has value. I’ve connected with old friends and met some of my new closest friends thanks to Facebook. But it’s also created an environment where it’s even easier to slip into performance-based love. We see others getting praise and acceptance and ‘love’ because of what they do so it makes us want to do those things in order to get ‘love’ ourselves. And I’m saying ‘love’ because is it really true love? All you have to do is disappear from social media for a bit to see which relationships in your life are truly love-based relationships or if they’re strictly surface-level social media relationships! And vice versa…if someone suddenly dropped off the face of social media, would you realize they were gone? Or would you be too busy liking everyone else who has remained active?
If we don’t understand unconditional love it will affect every area of our life. There are verses galore about love and God’s love for us but if we don’t truly understand what unconditional love is, then those verses are worthless. Some of us may not have ever experienced unconditional love here on earth so it’s practically impossible for us to understand that the God who created the universe loves us regardless of what we say or do. We can so easily fall into the trap of living life without healthy boundaries because we’re busy seeking love and acceptance from others. There are books all over the place about ‘following your passion’ and ‘saying no to what doesn’t matter so you can say yes to what does’ and ‘being yourself’….but it’s impossible to do any of those things without understanding and LIVING in God’s unconditional love.
I might say today that I’m setting boundaries and am going to say no to anything that doesn’t support what is on my ‘yes’ list. But then what happens when tomorrow I tell someone no and then they suddenly don’t pursue a relationship with me as much anymore? What happens if I see a person who I thought was a close friend suddenly inviting others to get-togethers instead of me? If I’m living in God’s unconditional love and understand that boundaries are healthy and that HIS approval is the only one I need to seek, then I don’t worry about it. But if I don’t understand it, I’ll eventually find myself again saying yes to things that are helping others move toward their dreams and goals while mine get pushed to the back burner.
Or what if I have these passions and dreams inside of me but I can’t step out in faith to go after them because I’m afraid that people will reject me? Faith requires full understanding of non-performance based love. I have never seen a successful person whom everyone likes and/or agrees with. Barack Obama is the president of the United States but he definitely is not liked by everyone. Justin Bieber? Taylor Swift? Michael Jackson? These are musicians who have been praised as highly successful yet thousands still don’t like them. Stepping out in faith and moving toward what God has placed in your heart takes resting in God’s unconditional love and not worrying about what others are going to think or if they’re still going to love you.
We stretch ourselves too thin and worry about things that aren’t important because we don’t understand unconditional love. Instead we live and act in fear of rejection and non-acceptance. We live based on what is popular instead of what God says about our lives. I invite and challenge you to take time to reflect on your life and ask yourself why you do the things that you do. Are you posting on social media to honestly just share with friends and family about your lives or are you seeking the attention and ‘love’ of others? Are you exhausted and is your schedule triple booked because you are seeking the approval and gratitude of others to fill the love-void in your life?
Performance-based love is like an addiction. Once the immediate loving feelings from one ‘thank you’ fade, we scramble to get to the next one and the next one and the next one until we’re burnt out and ironically, feeling completely unloved regardless of what we do.
God, show us what it’s like to experience and live based on your UNCONDITIONAL love. May YOU be our source so we can love on others from a position of healthy balanced strength instead of struggle and strife. For those reading this who have never experienced your true unconditional love, I pray that you give them a glimpse of it today. Bring people into their lives to show them what it’s really like to be embraced by their Heavenly Father who adores them for who they are regardless of what they have or haven’t done. Amen.
Image Credit: Erin Kass