Love, or what we think is love, can be a “Pandora’s box” if we crack the lid too soon and unfold the power of something that cannot be controlled, overpowered, or stopped once the fall begins. Love can be an exciting entwinement, a power to behold, a force to reckon with between two individuals drawing near. Love is what bonds a mother and child, beyond the incredible physical bond of sharing their bodies and personhood through the creation of life in the womb. Love can be the healing to a broken heart after tremendous loss, feeling life and comfort through the love of others bestowed. Love is what turns perfect strangers into majestically imperfect best friends. Love increases the capacity of the heart, allowing you to make room and cherish others in a place your heart never held another before. The feeling of love, which we may otherwise here name ‘affection’ for the personification of the feeling, may also be devastating, tiring, destructive, disquieting, dangerous, or tragic when you or another places your burdens up on it or builds up hope too soon. Affection can’t bear the weight of your expectations, your timing, your goals on it when genuine and timely love has its own mission to accomplish. Affection can’t bear the selfish ambitions or pride of another. Love, or what you think of love, is oftentimes better called affection. Affection is the experience or feeling of love that is directly tied to your emotional state, the condition of your heart, and the place you find yourself by circumstance. By direct comparison, this is no different than your happiness, your contentment, or your success being tied to your feelings. Affection can sometimes be a feeling, but what if there is more to love than that? The love you tie your heart to, or the affection, will fluctuate based on feelings that change. God created you for more, and real love goes beyond affection or what’s happened to you because love looks ahead to your future, and so does your Creator.
I’ll start with your past, because that can be its own load to unpack, a burden you’re still carrying, or a barrier you’ve never broken through. When you experienced, gave, or received affection in the past and for any reason it ended, you possibly felt betrayed, disappointed, confused, or heartbroken by the outcome. On the flip side, you may have felt freed, unburied, or lifted by your newly solo state. Either way, if you haven’t come to terms with the fact that the past is behind you, I’ll remind you now: Let. It. Go. You’ve told yourself a million times to let it go, yet it is still sticking its ugliness nose-to-nose in your face. Do I need to go grab Elsa straight out of the snowy mountains from her breakout scene in Frozen to sing it out loud for you? Let it out, let it be, and let it go. Your future is ahead of you.
Consider this, no one can walk into your life to make it better than you can all on your own. No one person knows you better than you know yourself, so wouldn’t your past experiences and current hopes prove to you that unfulfilled expectations, unsettled feelings, or deepened loneliness are yours to own & yours to reflect upon? Just as I told you to let go of your past, you’re probably thinking this is the worst thought you’ve heard from me so far. But I’m asking, what if you were meant to be so profoundly and keenly aware that no created thing could handle what you’ve been through or what you’ve hoped for, and you begin to seek a true, fulfilling source of mercy and comfort? There is someone who knows your hidden hopes, your past, and the things you want to forgive but could never forget. Jesus is the beginning and the end, and overflowing with mercy for the brokenhearted.
The Lord is forever unchanging and forever merciful in your past, present, and future. Psalm 138v8 “The Lord is with me to the end. Lord, your mercy endures forever. Never forsake the work of your hands!” and Hebrews 13v8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When you’re physically past the point in time to go back and mend that irreconcilable past of yours, give it to the forever merciful God who’s already been in it with you, dealing with it for you, healing you, and growing you with His mercies for those moments or seasons you can’t forget but need to forgive of yourself and others. Lamentations 3v22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Your God, the eternal and infinite God, has never let his mercies end or his love cease. The word “never” implies by definition that at no time God’s mercies come to an end. Does that include your past? YES! Ecclesiastes 3v14-15 says this: “I know that everything God does will endure forever [INSERT HIS MERCY HERE]; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past [INSERT YOUR PAST HERE] to account.” So, God brings the past to account for what has occurred in it; we must then recognize that the past answers to God. He beckons the past to account for what has been, and Psalm 147v3 says that God heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. If God heals the brokenhearted and does everything with permanence, so that we may admire and revere him, it is incompatible to think that God leaves your past alone, festering in its wounds and hurts, to leave you as-is with your scars. Instead, he is in the midst of healing your wounds, binding your heart, offering new mercies, standing by you in faithfulness, and interrogating your past to submit to his authority. So, let it go. God knows, and God’s got your past in hand for you.
The danger to you is, your past can’t be changed by you, but you can still be changed by your past if you don’t look forward. You might be giving your past more power, presence, and authority in your life right now than it ever deserved to have, and that is clouding the ability to look ahead. Have you ever tried to take off in your car without wipers in a heavy rain storm or without defrosting the windows in the winter? Your sight will be distorted and unclear, and you’re fully aware of the glaring simplicity to put on wipers or preheat your car. If you try to take off from your past without removing what’s distorting your view, you’ll carry those burdens into your present and it will hinder your perspective. Hebrews 12v1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus went to the cross joyfully for you to experience the grace and mercy of God through faith and repentance, and the greater importance and reality of your walk with the Father is meant to be unhindered from sin and all else that holds you back. If living in the past or reliving your past is a hindrance to your steps forward, then you can ask God to reveal his mercy, grace, and truth in your life when your vision is clouded and as you turn your focus to him. Psalm 119v18 says, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
If this is hitting the nail on the head or striking a chord with you, your past was meant to be cast off as you run a race forward in faith. Your inability to see clearly ahead can hold you back or hinder you from moving forward. So, forgive what you can’t forget, and ask the Lord of all time to provide grace for today and mercy over your past and future. Cast your eyes on him, the one who cares for you. Throw off the heartbreak of the past to embrace the love and mercy of your Father above. Then, you can look back to see the grace in today and his mercy that lasts forever.
We’ve covered the past for the sake of your present, because by connection to what you’ve been through, felt, or done before, your feelings will carry a story that cannot be unwritten or undone by the passage of time in your own mind. In a sense, we still carry the scars of the healed past, even after God has bound up the wounds and they’ve mended. Your past feelings and your experiences can be accounted for by God and covered in mercy, but there is always the human element of, well, you! I mentioned before that real love has its mission to accomplish, meanwhile, your affection and heart has a mind of its own. Reflect on Song of Solomon 2v7, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” This is not just a request – it’s a warning that love should not be awakened before your preparation for its awakening. This verse implies that affection or love has a time and a place when you will be ready for it, but until then, you are being prepared silently and proactively. In this warning, love is given the control of the awakening. I grant you, I’ve never been woken up early by surprise without the first words being, “What’s the matter? What’s wrong?” On the other hand, if I’m waking at the time I choose, I’m ready to go for whatever’s next. Why should I expect love, the true love that scripture is referring to here, to be any different? It’s being personified as having a choice of whether it’s waking from a slumber, and it’s deciding to choose the timing for you. Why could this be?
Proverbs 24v27 shares, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” It’s a simple concept – you may already have a space to inhabit, and you’ll prepare that space for where your house will go. When both the location and the building materials are ready for use within that space, your house can be built there. If the feelings of love are so tied to things like your past, your heart’s condition, and the circumstances of today, we have to wonder, has the space been prepared yet for the one who will come to live with you there? Think of it like this – your space has your relationship with Jesus, your positive energy for life, your family and friends, your knowledge and learning from your job or hobbies, your interests and talents, your personality, your focus on others,
your past…. Wait, that’s not meant to be on the list! Your past is part of your healing to get into this space, but your past is not meant to be in this space anymore! Likewise, you must to also have the things in that space that will help you build the house. One cannot build a house without a solid foundation, and you also need to have the materials in this space to build above the foundation. We’ll use the picture of your salvation as a comparison.
The present “you” is being shaped in the spirit for the lifelong pursuit of Christ, and this much mirrors the present slumbering of love in your life. If it hasn’t happened yet, God might still be building upon your foundation of faith. 1 Corinthians 3v11 says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The foundation is laid by Christ’s sacrifice, and it follows with your personal consideration of the cost, sacrifice, and commitment. Luke 14v28-30 says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” You might as well wrap yourself in caution tape as a hazard zone if you look for godly love and aren’t rooted and built up in your foundation. God did all the work, but we have a lot of growth in Christ that comes at estimating our sacrifice, the efforts we’ll invest, and the commitment of building on our foundation. We come to Christ empty handed of our possessions and in a humbled state, so we submit to him our wills and our bodies as a temple. Ephesians 2v19-22 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
So, you have your foundation laid in Christ, you have a space to work with where you’ll build your home, but how does this all tie together with the timing of love’s awakening?
Well, from the beginning of creation, God laid out an order to these things — the order of boy meets girl or woman meets man. It’s rather simple, but it might mean something different for you than it means for me. I’ll lead with this, it there was a formula to falling in, finding, fixing, or fastening a lifelong love, specifically the kind of love that God designs for sharing between a man and woman, I think I wouldn’t be writing this passage. We wouldn’t be wondering about old flames, asking friends to set up blind dates, joining singles groups, paying for dating apps, or texting strangers we met in the checkout line (*pun intended*). We’d all be settled with a Prince Charming or Fairest Maiden, and marriage would be perfect. There would be no divorce, no disappointments, no broken homes or broken hearts, no abuse behind closed doors, no open anger, no despair in love, and no unfilled dreams. Luckily, love is much more merciful, kind, and free than we give it credit for, but it is also the victim of our expectations, burdens, or demands if we think that the above outline is achievable or realistic. Don’t get me wrong, 1 Corinthians 13v7 shares with us that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” However, that does not mean that the humans demonstrating love do it perfectly or without their own outcomes in mind.
In fact, how we are to express or give out Christ-like love is shared with us in Luke 6v32-35, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return.” Love, and you as the giver, should expect nothing in return – let that sink in, you may receive nothing in return and you cannot expect anything in return.
1 John 2v6 demonstrates that we are to live as Jesus lived, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Ephesians 5v1-2 also shows that we should live as Jesus lived and walk in a way of love, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This kind of love is sacrificial, and again, the central object of this love is the other person, and loving them without expecting anything in return. This is both a friendly and romantic view of love, as this covers over all types of love in our lives, even those people that might be a stretch for you. 1 John 4v7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” So, to know this sacrificial, selfless love that is of God and has no expectations of another, we must be born of God.
So, you have your foundation laid in Christ, you have a space to work with where you’ll build your home, but how does this all tie together with the timing of love’s awakening?
In the beginning, God created Adam (mankind) and placed him in the Garden of Eden after setting the stage and preparing place where he would put Adam and ultimately create Eve to complete his plan for humanity – the plan for union, the plan for marriage, and ultimately, for our love lives that are happening now. Bear with the following passage, and we’ll unpack it together. Note the sections marked in bold and the words next to them, because we’ll revisit those. Genesis 2v8-25 says:
8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed (PLACE). 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (PROVISION). The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden (PROVISION), and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (PLACE and PURPOSE). 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (PARAMETERS).”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (PROVISION).” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them (PURPOSE). And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (IDENTITY).”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (COMPLETION). 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
In this passage above, I’ve marked down the words Place, Purpose, Provision, Parameters, Identity, and Completion. You might want to read through it again later, but the highlighted sections denote that before Adam was ready for life with Eve & before God created Eve for life together with Adam, God created a place for Adam to reside, he provided and made accessible the necessities to live (food and water), he gave Adam a purpose in keeping and working the garden and in naming other created things, he set parameters for what Adam should or should not do in the garden, and he bestowed an identity to Adam by naming him “Man” and creating “Woman” from his flesh. Last, God completed the work of Adam’s preparation to meet Eve by setting the model of leaving your home or current family to establish a new unit, a new flesh, a new unified being of two in one. So, I’ll come back to this question again, what does this have to do with the timing or awaken of love for you?
We visited before Proverbs 24v27, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Perhaps, you have been undergoing a preparation work for that house to be built on your firm foundation in Christ. Perhaps, God is still mending your past and helping you forward in your present towards a wonderful awakening of love in your life. Perhaps, love is slumbering because work is going on in the background, gathering the materials in the space where your house may one be built. Perhaps, like Adam, the space is still undergoing some renovations, some restorations, or new creations that God is still working up to get you ready for that day. The whole point was to share this: Do not awaken love before it so desires. But, I didn’t yet tell you the hope in the second portion of that passage. Song of Solomon 2v7-8 says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.” Love is coming for you, my beloved. It’s looking forward and preparing you for its awakening to arrive just in time. As you let go of the past, dwell in your present and focus forward to your future. And, look up to your Father above to delight yourself in him alone.
Psalm 37v4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”