In Spite Of, Not Because

6:21 AM

I feel sorry for any man who might fall in love with me. I imagine this all the time -- the soft, romantic atmosphere, the tux and fancy dress, the strong, manly hand reaching to take hold of mine, and the whispered, I love you.

"Well," I would squirm. "Well, I don't know -- I don't really think you could love somebody like me. You sure you're at the right table?"

No, he would insist. I love you for who you are. 

And then he would realize just the kind of person to whom he refers: "What do you mean who you are? If I ceased to be me, you'd love me less? Does that mean I can't change? And the arrogance of supposing you know exactly who I am! Just wait until you really get to know me and discover that the real me includes a bunch of awful things no self-respecting human being could ever love. Don't tell me you'll still love me even then -- you shouldn't love that part of me. Love me in spite of me. Love me without loving me, because, honestly, I don't even know what that means, to be me. And besides, your love will change me, and time will change me, and eventually I'll be somebody maybe neither of us can foresee at the moment. And then what? Your love would have no foundation, and we'd both be mourning the loss of a girl we once knew. That's not the kind of love I can trust. No, sir."

I always feel sorry for my imaginary man, because it's perfectly normal to love people for certain things about them. (I hear that's how most relationships start these days.) I do it myself. I love people who laugh at my jokes and tease me gently and follow after me when I storm off in black clouds and tears. I dislike anger and awkwardness and unibrows. I love people who do indeed love me for parts of who I am -- though sometimes I wonder, What parts?

Once upon some times, people told me, "You're not like yourself" or "I never thought you were like this" or "I can't believe you did this." And it doesn't shame me, though it should. It backs me into a corner. It makes me steel my eyes and say, "You only like the sunshine and rainbows and not the leeches and dirt gathering at the corners of my soul? Well, it doesn't surprise me. I don't like them either. And if you can't accept that we share the common bond of human awfulness, really, I don't count the loss of your love a loss at all."

I need to work on my responses to losing people's admiration and affection. Really, though, I feel somewhat justified: Did they think the real Bailey had no dark days, no badness, no potholes in her happiness? Am I not allowed to be human?

God's love spoils me and makes me think that all people -- especially His children -- ought to love me the way He does. He definitely doesn't love me for who I am. Thank goodness for that! People often say that when they're trying to make the point that God loves sinners. I don't think I could worship a God who loved me for who I am. The surest thing about "who I am" is the hard-nosed rebellion and stubborn sin. If God found that cute or inconsequential, He wouldn't be holy and He wouldn't be anything different than humanity. Or, rather, He would be -- He'd be more depraved to love me for everything I am, including the awful parts.  And even the "good things" about my personality and person -- I'm not sure they're inherently always cute.

I read somewhere that the traits you fall in love with while dating are the exact same things that grate on your nerves once married. (Does that mean if you marry someone who annoys you, you'll be in love forever after marriage? Sorry, just me being weird.) In any case, I've found it's true.

Wait. Let me rephrase that.

I have not, actually, fallen in love and got married. I mean to say that the people I admire for a certain trait often get on my nerves for the same thing. The guy who speaks his mind eventually drives me nuts with his over-assertiveness. The girl who listens well eventually makes me bonkers because she won't give a single opinion. The one who gives out hugs freely soon finds me pulling away from way too much bubble invasion. Sometimes it depends on my mood. I rarely click with one person forever in every single way. (Minus one, and only because we've ceased to be separate people and live vicariously through each other. Bethany.)

In short, me-ness is incredibly shaky ground for love. I don't feel inclined to love myself, and I've put up with Bailey her entire life. So while it's natural and normal and good, even, to love certain things about certain people -- it must go deeper than that. It must be a love that doesn't depend on the actions or character or person itself. It must be God's kind of love -- the love that stems solely from who He is, not who we are.

That sounds impersonal and impractical -- a blanket love that could fit anybody, regardless of whether they get on our nerves or not. But I think if love is based in God's love -- that unconditional love -- then it has incredible freedom to actually love people for who they are. That unconditional love can sympathize with the faults and foibles of our loved ones. That unconditional love can rejoice in the quirky personality, funny laugh and caring attitude without putting pressure on the individual to put on a mask of goodness or pleasurableness. It honestly allows the individual to be his entire self -- good, bad and ugly -- without altering your affection for him.

So I suppose, if my date means precisely what I stated above, I will allow him to say I love you for who you are without a self-conscious lecture. Or I might give it anyway -- just to show what he's getting into. :)

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8 impressions

  1. Thanks so much for putting my jumbled, almost-there thoughts into understandable form! I love it when people love me but I fear revealing the real me (the one who gets stressed tests, the one who spends too much time on the computer, the one who has a quick temper) would put an end to that love.

    However others love me I want to learn to love like God. Because He loves me pimples and all.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. i've been thinking about this same thing -- loving people with the unconditional love of Jesus. :) great post, bailes, very thought-provoking. :)

  3. Yeah I can relate. I sometimes find myself thinking things that I consider very true that wouldn't sound very romantic.

  4. Dear Bailey,
    I wanted to let you know how encouraging, how amazing and beautiful your writing is. It is a breath of fresh air! Thank you for holding fast to your convictions, being yourself, and following hard after God. May He continue to mold you into his likeness!

  5. Know what I like about you?

    You write about you. Your beliefs, your relationships, your thoughts. You don't write about other people, e.g. Your future lover, whom I hope you find. I like that.


  6. Yes. Sometimes I swear you're on the same wave length I am. It's kinda scary, actually, because I was thinking about this just yesterday. Weird.

    I've always felt like you. I'm not overly expecting anyone to ever want to marry me. I live with myself 24/7. I know what I am like. Goodness, I wouldn't want to marry me!

    And ditto on the 'admiration turned to annoyance' phenomenon. So. True. In any relationship. I just think about how God's put up with me, in spite of me, and since He's making me more like Him, I guess that means I've gotta put up with other people. Even when sometimes I'd rather just ignore them!

  7. "God loves you just the way you are ... but he loves you too much to let you stay that way."

    And you made me think (though this is probably only tangential) of this quote from Charles Williams:

    "So in love it is most certain that the lovers are manifest to each other's eyes in their original perfection; but this is not the same thing as the rather silly convention of romance that only a pretended criticism of the beloved should be allowed a place."

    There's also something somewhere in Lewis, about how we would react if God allowed us for a moment to see each other as we truly are ... but I can't find it right now.

    In my (very limited!) experience, though, "I love you for who you are" is an abbreviation of "I love you, not because of what you've done for me, but for who you are"---and so a statement that the love is unconditional, rather than the selfish kind of "love" that's so common---or perhaps, like the folk song "Believe me, if all these endearing young charms", a statement that the love won't fade with the beloved's beauty.

  8. Thanks for this amazing post Bailey - I just came across your blog recently and I love what I see.
    I've always thought exactly what a previous commenter thought - how I would hate to marry someone like me! (And I certainly can't see anything in myself that anyone else should like, so praise God for steadfast friends.)
    Your sister in Christ.


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