People basically want to be loved. I'm starting to think it's really as simple as that.
It's a little like one of those hierarchy things, though, so you have to be careful. By that I mean that at first, being loved just simply means being accepted for who you are. Lots of us would settle for that, or we think we would settle for that. We've built up so many walls between us and acceptance that the idea of someone accepting us for who we are, no strings, no conditions, sounds about like paradise. So the word of Jesus' unconditional love is powerful to us. We read Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," and we think there must be a catch. It's not possible that we are just accepted, free and clear.
For some of us, that's enough love, or at least we can't imagine needing more than that because it seems so far out of reach.
If you've ever tasted of acceptance, you realize that it's not quite enough. There's more, but it's still love. We want not only acceptance, we want relationship. We want mutuality. We want conversation. We want a meaningful give and take that affirms not only that we are acceptable, but also in a sense that we are valuable because someone else is willing to interact with us. This is what we call love, and we yearn for it. Songs on the radio are full of this kind of yearning for love.
For some of us, that's enough, or at least we think that if the songs on the radio came true it would be enough for us.
If you've ever had mutuality, you realize it's not quite enough either. There's more, but it's still love. We yearn not only for conversation, but for growth. We want challenge. We want to be stretched, to see ourselves becoming more than we were before. We want to expand our horizons and our abilities. We long to grow. And so love calls us beyond ourselves, calls us to go deeper, to reach wider, to care more, to extend. The self-help section (especially all those self-help books about relationships) are full of this kind of love.
For some of us, this might be enough. But -- you guessed it -- there's more.
If you've ever had acceptance, and relationship, and challenge, you know that you still long for something more. You long for significance. You long to make an impact. You want to change the world around you in some meaningful way. There's a whole genre of success literature, of books written for aspiring CEO's, that tells you how to move the world. We look like Archimedes, carrying a long lever and looking for a place to rest it. We want to be significant.
But in the long run, what we want is still love. We want a God who not only accepts us for who we are, we want a God who calls us into mutual relationship. We want a God who is always moving out beyond us, calling us to follow, to be challenged and changed. We want a God who invites us into a world-transforming agenda where our input, our effort, matters. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said we should be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for we know that in the Lord our labor is not in vain.
How deep is the Father's love for us, that layer after layer of our yearning should find its fulfillment in him!