I am no stranger to the aches and pains of yearning to be loved. Even though we’re often told to be fully satisfied in God’s love, many of us still yearn for that human kind of love, the genuine connection between two people to walk together as companions in life. But it is a danger to think that human love will be the answer to all of our problems, that once we find “The One” all our fears and weaknesses will suddenly go away, that we’ll fulfill the meaning of our existence once we marry this person, etc.
It is unfair to place all the responsibility for our lives – the fulfillment of our vocations or the validation of our personhood – on one person alone, to dump all that on their shoulders. Like it or not, this person will only ever be human, just as we are human, and if we look to that person for the fulfillment of all our needs, they will inevitably fall short. They will always be a disappointment, because they – as much as they are a blessing from God or an expression of His love – cannot, themselves, be God.
To love freely is to set that person free from such a tall order. Not to lower our standards, but to let God be God and not mistaken other people for that role. We can’t make someone play the role we wish they would play in our lives or force them to fit the mould that we wish they would fit. That person will never fill the void that God, alone, can fill.
I’ve been pondering a lot about what it means to “love freely” or to “love without attachment”, inspired by the book Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe (you will probably see more themes from his book in posts to come). In his tiny, unassuming, but profound book, he describes people who are interiorly free and thus freer to love:
Their support is in God alone. They are untroubled by their own weaknesses, nor do they blame others for not always meeting their expectations. Reliance on God alone protects them from all disappointment. It gives them great interior freedom, which they place entirely at the service of God and their fellow men, responding to love with love.”
Perhaps part of being “free to love” is to stop demanding that others play a role they were never meant to play. No one can play God. When we embrace that our ultimate fulfillment and validation comes from God, we are free to love others the way they deserve to be loved – to be loved despite their failures and shortcomings; to be loved simply for who they are, not just for the fulfillment or validation we think they give us.