I knew love as a choice. Even when falling in love with my husband, it was the product of a planned, discerned choice for a man who shared my values and life goals.
Love was not an impulse, sometimes not even an emotion. It was an action. It was resolve.
I’ve lived that way for a long time. I did feel love, at times, but my predisposition told me it was a shallow version of the love-resolve I was called to pursue… responsible love. Active love. Not “feeling” love.
We do live in a culture entranced by feeling, led by emotion, letting the whim of the heart dictate decision – and it’s not wise. Love is not just a feeling.
But it’s not just a choice.
We tend to veer toward extremes when we’ve been hurt, and I’m a seasoned wall-builder. You know: the kind laying bricks as soon as disappointment approaches. Love is dangerous. It opens its arms, exposing the vulnerable heart right where it can be pierced and trampled. And the more we let ourselves feel, the greater the risk of pain.
So with Him, I played it safe.
I loved Him with resolve. I loved His words; I loved to pray, to sing, to do, to live. I loved His ways, His standards, how His righteousness led to a life of peace. I loved responsibly and dutifully and devoutly.
But I did not love emotionally.
The world lacks reverence for the sacred; it lacks understanding of holy things. Perhaps I thought by feeling I would lose the reverence due Him – that I would forget how great He is and how really small I am in comparison. Perhaps I was afraid my love was too little to matter to Him; that what really mattered was His love for me. Perhaps my dutiful love was a safeguard against the vulnerability I so desperately feared.
Until that day Beth Moore’s words hung in the air like a banner to my soul and rang my ears with the passion of truth: “Devotion plus emotion equals locomotion… Obedience without love is just legalism.”
And I realized: I’m allowed to feel.
Dear girl, you’re allowed to love Him. You’re allowed to feel love for your God. You’re allowed to enjoy Him, look forward to Him, to laugh with Him and cry with Him. He welcomes it, and He welcomes you (Matt. 7:7-11, 1 Peter 5:7).
As long as we believe in an abstract love we will never feel God’s real presence. I wondered, when I was single, how people could talk about Jesus ‘satisfying’ with companionship – when all I wanted was a physical person to be present at my side. But now I see why that void existed. I believed in a dutiful, abstract, above-me love; a love applied to me that didn’t apply to me. Mine was an unconscious Platonic philosophy: removing emotion in the name of piety; living holy without a heart.
By loving God back, we are stating faith in the love He has for us. We stand as a chorus saying, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” because not only did He choose to love us once for all time, every day He chooses again – because He feels for us. He feels love for you, and He feels it for me.
Jesus cried tears at the death of Lazarus, despite the fact He would raise him from the dead. He wept at the death of his cousin John, whose legacy would stand the test of time. And though we don’t see Jesus laugh in the words of His disciples, the Author of Joy wouldn’t ask us to rejoice if He Himself didn’t do so.
God created emotion. I can think of no higher or holier use for it than in adoration of the God most deserving of our love.
Dear girl, you are allowed to love Him. You are free to love Him. Your love is not too small an offering; it’s the only one He wants.
We are free to feel love towards the Almighty God, and by allowing ourselves to feel we do not demean the value of our salvation but exponentially increase it. Salvation becomes personal when we engage our emotions. It is no longer a dutiful choice, nor a whimsical impulse, but the determined teaming of affection and resolve. It is the completion of our person.
Jesus didn’t just die to save us dutifully. He died for love. Jesus died to save our whole person: our minds, our bodies, our souls, our sexuality, and our hearts. Only our souls are saved for eternity, but the rest is preserved for holy use.
The most holy use of your love, dear girl, is to pour it out at the feet of the One who looks on you with the kindest of eyes, the gentlest of hands, and the smile of a Father saying, “I love you, too.”
“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chron. 16:9
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