“I’d rather like you than love you.”
I heard someone say this once upon a time ago. I’m sure he thought he was imparting some profound existential nugget of depth and insight.
I’d rather like you than love you. What does that even mean?
I understood the spirit of what he was trying to say. I have made similar statements to describe complicated relationships. Like, “I love “John” but I can only take him in small doses.”
Or, “I love so-and-so, but I don’t like him.”
How about, “She’s nice but I wouldn’t go on a girl’s trip with her.”
No, not you? I’m the only one? Cool!
Intellectually, I knew he was placing value on friendship without love over love without friendship. But that was the extent of my understanding. In truth, the value statement was over my head, beyond my experiences. My heart had yet to be tapped in that tender spot- that spot once pricked slams you into backyard floodlight- understanding.
Maybe you’ve wished that you didn’t love that addict son or daughter because the agony of wondering if they are alive or dead is just too much. When they come around are they going to steal from you again? Lie to you again? Break your heart again? You love them, but you don’t like them. When you’ve endured the betrayal of a spouse, you want to hate them. You don’t like them. The very sight of them conjures feelings of inadequacy, plots of arsenic-laced dinners and silent petitions to say the right thing to make it all go away. But the most conflicting feeling: you hate that you love them.
Because if you didn’t love them, it wouldn’t hurt so much. You’d be able to file them under “No Loss” and put them and everything they own in a box to the left. Thanks, Beyonce. If you didn’t love them, the healing would be effortless. If you could just like them from the balcony of your life, you wouldn’t lose sleep, lose your appetite, or lose you…
What do you do when you love God, but…? I don’t expect you to say, “I love Jesus, but I can only take Him in small doses?” Actually, some of you do say that– every time you glance down at your watch in church. But I digress. You wouldn’t say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t like Him.” That would seem irreverent, right? Borderline blasphemous.
But we do say it! All the time! When we refuse to forgive others. When we can’t pull it together to give Him worship. Every time we qualify our love by mentioning what we think we lack. The mothers of my childhood church used to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15).”
Who wants to be loved like that? Being loved in spite of. That’s like saying: I love you Mom, even though you spank me. I love you Husband even though you don’t have a job. I love you Dad, even though you couldn’t afford to send me to college. I love you Daughter, even though you earned a C. I love you Cousin, even though you’re Muslim.
Many of us have an “even though” kind of love for God. An obligatory kind of love that only sees His heavy hand and ignores His merciful hand.
I love you God, even though you didn’t heal me. I love you God, even though I lost my house. I love you God, even though you took my parents. I love you God, even though you didn’t protect my child from that predator. I love you God, even though…
But we gotta love Him, right? He’s God, for Christ’s sake! It would be better to be an atheist and protest the very of existence of God than to know He is real and refuse to love Him, right? It’s not like we really have a choice in the matter. So, I will love you God, even though…
This attitude grieves Holy Spirit. He wants us to love loving Him in the same way – check this out – that He loves loving us.
If you have children, you know what I mean. When your teen gives you the unexpected, unsolicited hug and kiss. When your toddler sings and dances for you. Absolutely Yummy! Or those rare moments when they think of others and express honey-sweet kindness and demonstrate uncommon generosity. Or how about when they’re doing nothing at all, like just sleeping. I love watching them sleep. I LOVE LOVING THEM!
Well, guess what? When you sing and dance before your Father, I believe He elbows the Apostle Paul and gleefully exclaims, “Isn’t that the cutest thing ever!” When we give to others, He puffs His chest and proclaims, “That’s My child.” The God that never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4) loves watching you sleep. He loves loving you!
I’m not going to tell you to smile through the pain or to give up trying to understand God’s ways. I won’t insult you by trying to make sense of why your child died, your marriage died, or why that affliction hit your body. But the scriptures are true. Weeping does only last for a night. (Psalm 30:50). Sometimes it feels like an Alaskan-night. But the morning will come and Joy will be with her. We can love loving Him because He’s altogether good. He’s altogether lovely. He’s altogether worthy. We can love loving Him because He’s faithful (Psalm 119:90), a great listener (Psalm 116:1-2), and a genuine know-it-all (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). We can love loving Him because He’s got our back and our front (Isaiah 52:12)
I love loving Him because, truthfully, I don’t have any choice in the matter. What else would I choose? Who else would I choose? Who is like my God? My Red Sea-parting, water-walking, mind renewing God? Who loves me like He does? Where He sings over me kind of love (Zephaniah 3:17). He who thought I was to die for kind of love. There are people who dislike me without knowing me. Jesus knows everything about me. The selfish, easily offended, grudge-holding, slow to forgive, prideful me. He knows me and loves loving me still.
I love loving Him because He first loved loving me (1 John 4:19).