Wired for Love

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:7-12

My first love: Carey Covey.  What was I trying to do? Make her jealous or something?  I think that's my friend Karleen I'm talking to in the picture
My first love: Carey Covey. What was I trying to do? Make her jealous or something? I think that’s my friend Karleen I’m talking to in the picture

I was sure I finally found “the one.”

At the tender age of six years old, I thought I found her. Her name was Carrie Covey. She had long blond hair that she wore in ponytails on either side of her head and I thought she was great. When I was pencil monitor, I would save the newest, sharpest pencil for her. When I was paper monitor, I would give her a piece of paper first and then go back and hand it out to everyone else. It was pretty obvious how much I liked her. The best thing was, I think she liked me too. I invited her and a bunch of my classmates to my birthday party when I turned six and at some point during the party, she started to chase me all around the house. I ended up trapped in my sister’s room and in front of all of my friends, Carrie kissed me full on the lips. That was a great day! But alas it was not meant to be. That summer, Carrie moved away. I didn’t even know until the beginning of the next school year when I couldn’t find her. One of her neighbors said her parents moved to Utah. I hope it wasn’t because of me. But it was okay, because I fell in love many, many more times after that. And each time I fell in love, I was sure she was the one.

When I was younger, I was worried about that. Worried about finding “the one.”

I remember making the comment to my friend Lance, “What if my one lives in China and we never meet? Or what if by the time we meet she’s already married because she couldn’t wait any longer?” The idea that there is only one person out there who is your soul mate is everywhere in our culture. It’s on TV, in movies, in books, in pretty much every storytelling medium there is. Even in video games! After all Mario had his Princess Peach, Pac Man had Ms. Pac Man. And Space Ace had his Daphne. This idea of “the one” is everywhere. With just three words I think Tom Cruise ruined a generation of youth looking for love when he said to Renee Zellweger, “You complete me.” Now, I’m as much a romantic as anybody and I loved the movie Jerry Maguire, but this idea that there is some human being out there we are searching for who can make us whole just isn’t true. That there is one person out there with the key to our lock doesn’t make sense. The odds of anybody finding their “one” would be astromomical. The thought that God would do this to us, that he would only make one person who was right for us and then leave us to find that person by ourselves seems to advocate for a cruel God rather than a good God. And that’s not the way God wired us for love.

From the NPR story on Romanian orphans.  Original caption:  In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end. - Tom Szalay
From the NPR story on Romanian orphans. Original caption:
In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end. – Tom Szalay

Because there is no doubt that are wired for love.

Study after study has proven that. John Bowlby’s work on attachment theory[1], Rene Spitz’ work on maternal deprivation[2], and the awful condition of the children in Romanian orphanages gave ample evidence that love is an essential component of our lives.[3] It is one of the saddest stories of our time. Over 100,000 children were living in Romanian government institutions, the victims of a series of failed policies by the Romanian government who kept them in horrible conditions with poorly trained attendants. Even after the atrocious conditions were uncovered Romanian orphans still received only 5 to 6 minutes of attention per day.[4] Could you imagine a baby laying in his crib and only having human contact for 5 to 6 minutes a day? The New York Times reported, “Attendants still loll in the corridors, smoking and drinking coffee, leaving the children to rock in their cots.”[5] They estimated that 10% of all of these children will develop so poorly mentally and emotionally they will end their lives in a psychiatric institution.[6] They found that it wasn’t a lack of food or healthcare that was stunting their development, it was a lack of attention. A lack of love. Medically speaking the lack of contact, the lack of interaction, the lack of comfort and security made these children mentally deficient. Their brains were literally smaller than other children their age.

Interestingly, we are not only wired to be loved, but we are also wired TO love.

We are not only wired to be loved, we are also wired TO love. An article on Psychology Today stated that our need TO love is as strong as our desire to BE loved.[7] And this goes back to what we talked about last week when we shared that caring for others was part of our search for the meaning of life, that helping others gave our life meaning. But it also fulfills our need to love and care for others. Isn’t that smart? Isn’t that smart that God made us in a way that we feel our life is meaningful AND we feel fulfilled when we love and care for others? It’s part of who we are! Dr. Raj Raghunathan wrote that being generous in our care and love for others does three things for us.[8] One, it encourages others to be generous to us. When we do nice things for people they often feel the desire and even the need to do something nice back. Two, something called homophily happens. Homophily is the propensity to attract like-minded people. So if you are a generous person, you tend to attract generous people in your life which is far better than being surrounded by selfish, self-centered people. And three, when we are generous, we are subconsciously saying to ourselves that we are fulfilled. In fact, we have extra and our generosity stems from the overflow of our well-being. When we are stingy, we tell ourselves we don’t have enough and we need more – whether or not that’s true. We approach life from a “need” perspective and it not only colors our behavior but how we see ourselves. All of these reasons point to the idea that we are wired both to love and be loved.

Image courtesy of YouVersion Bible app
Image courtesy of YouVersion Bible app

But then what does God have to do with it?

God helps us understand how we are to love. God helps us understand how we are to love. For all of this to work – to love and be loved – God has a plan and it’s really simple. Love God, love others. That’s it. Love God, love others. We put God first on the list because without him we just aren’t ready to love others. It’s like the safety videos on an airplane where they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. As a parent, you be my first instinct is to protect my child, but the realization is I’m in no position to help my child unless I seek help first. In the same way, we can’t fully love others until we realize we are fully loved ourselves. We can’t fully love others until we realize we are fully loved ourselves. Like it says in verse 10-11, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us… since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” See how that works? God first loved us. Not that we loved God first, but he first loved us and because he loved us he taught us how to love one another. The key to a successful loving relationship is to first know and understand that you are loved and to know that God loves you abundantly. When you realize that, when you know that you are loved by the God of all love, you can enter into a loving relationship with confidence ready to give love out of the excess of what God has given you. But if you don’t feel that security of God’s love, if you enter into a relationship without the sureness of the love of God, you’re not able to fully give of yourself and you rob yourself of having the kind of love relationship God wants for you to have. Not just with your significant other, but with all of those around you.

That doesn’t mean that people who don’t believe in God don’t experience love.

Of course they do. Everyone has the capacity to experience love. It’s not only the way God made us, but the primary way he reaches out to us. God hopes that through love you will come to know him and believe in him. But you can experience love and never where it comes from. It’s just that in that case, it’s going be like seeing a 3D movie and forgetting the glasses. You can still see the movie, but it’s a little out of focus most of the time. Not knowing or not believing that love comes from God robs you of the assurance that comes from his love. There is a strength in knowing that no matter what happens, you are loved by someone tremendously and unconditionally. Knowing that frees us from the pitfalls of the Jerry Maguire Syndrome – always searching for someone to complete us. Let’s face it, we can’t rely on other people to make us whole. We need to have that kind of self-assurance BEFORE we go out into the world so that we’re equipped to love someone else. So we can love from our overflow.

Don’t look to me as an expert.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes. And I haven’t always come from a place of self-assurance. Just ask Cassie. I’m far from perfect in this category. I struggle with doubts and when I’m hurting it’s not easy for me to remember I’m loved by God. But I do know that God’s love has made me a stronger person. God’s love has helped to see me through some pretty difficult times. And knowing God loves me gives me the strength to love Cassie and Emma the way I hope they deserve to be loved. I still make mistakes. I still sometimes succumb to my own internal doubts and fears. But having God in my life has helped me to overcome those doubts and fears and to be a stronger person. I hope God will do that for you, too. What I hope is that in your own doubts and fears, in those times when you feel distant from God or you resort to your own inner weaknesses, that you’ll remember these words and gain strength from them. I hope that you’ll realize that you don’t need someone to “complete” you because God loves you completely already. And that in your times of doubt, you’ll think about how you are made to love and be loved and that gift comes from God.

 

[1] http://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Spitz

[3] http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/02/20/280237833/orphans-lonely-beginnings-reveal-how-parents-shape-a-childs-brain

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/25/world/romanian-orphans-prisoners-of-their-cribs.html?_r=0

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sapient-nature/201401/the-need-love

[8] Each of these are found in the above article

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