Each of us grew up with an idea of what love is. Primary of which is what we’ve received from our parents. How did they show us love (or lack of it)? Were they there for us most of the time? Were they nurturing? Did they shout at us? Any sort of abuse? Did they show themselves to be trustworthy?
As we grow older, that concept of love continues to evolve. We see it in the relationship of our parents. Are they still together or not? Have they grown closer or almost like strangers now? How is the dynamics at home or over dinner? While friends and media may teach us a thing or two about love, what we experience at home leaves us a deeper impression of how we expect to be loved.
Let me give a simple illustration.
I went out on a date with two guys. Guy 1 asked me what I wanted and went ahead to order for both of us, plus extras for the table. Guy 2 did not ask me my order; I had to ask him and he left me to order for both of us, individual plates with no sides.
Now this is not about the money spent (both paid for dinner, bless their hearts). This is about what I became accustomed to growing up. I am used to the man taking charge. That’s how I feel taken care of. And yeah, I come from a big family so extras on the side does matter.
You may have your own practices at home, things that you’re used to. And that’s okay. It’s a matter of what you’re willing to accept. This may be a small area – dining out. But it streams into bigger known areas of one’s background growing up.
Guy 1 comes from a close-knit family (much similar to mine), while Guy 2 comes from a broken family. It’s a simple dinner, but provides a peephole view into what the future may look like. Do I like what I’m seeing? Can I see myself living his life together with him?
In the end, we look for what is familiar. Because that is how we learned love. That is what we recognize. But not necessarily what is right or good for us.
God’s love: A different perspective
Love is something we need to learn. We weren’t born with an instinct to love; on the contrary, our parents had to teach us not to hurt others, not to steal our playmate’s toys, not to lie. They need to teach us how to behave, how to share, how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. We learn how to relate to others. And to love.
But we don’t have perfect parents. And they may fail us. How do we learn the right kind of love then?
God gives us the perfect example of what love is: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us that we may be in a right standing relationship with God, that we may know the Father’s love.
We may not physically die for others, but we can die to our own selfishness and pride. God put first our need for a Savior, choosing to sacrifice His own Son. Do we know a love like that – love that is sacrificial and unconditional?
We need to be familiar with that kind of love. A love that we ourselves are able to put out and pour out into others. It’s a re-learning and re-familiarization of love. So that when the right one comes, we’ll be ready.