12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything in return.

Love that comes bearing the burden of expectation is not love; it is transaction, contract, negotiation. It is deal-making.

Love is free – freely given, freely received – or it is not love.

Love is never conditional. “I love you if….” is not love. “I love you as long as you….” is not love. “I will love you when….” is not love. Love never demands that you change before I can love you.

Love risks everything. It is the nature of love to give no matter what. Love is willing to bear the reality of the pain of being in relationship simply because to be human is to be in relationship.

This is the Gospel.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… (John 3:16)

Did God not know what the world was going to do to “his only Son”? Did God expect that “the world” would treat “his only Son” with respect and honour?

Jesus knew.

See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. (Matthew 20:18,19)

And yet, in spite of his intimate knowledge of what Jerusalem inevitably meant,

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.(Luke 9:51)

Jesus walked into the centre of the storm that awaited him. He faced betrayal, denial, mockery, suffering, and death. He expected nothing but pain. He did not demand the respect due to his exalted status. He did not order the world to bow in supplication before him. He accepted the destiny that awaited him as painful as he knew it was going to be.

This is love. It demands nothing and accepts whatever comes from the hands of those it chooses to love.

This is the love that breaks the bondage of lies, violence and destruction that afflict so much of the world. This sacrificial, self-giving, emptying love is the heart of the giving universe.

We fail to love when we fail to trust the power of love at work in our lives and in the world. We have expectations that life must turn out a certain way, because we fear that love is not adequate to carry us through the circumstances of life as they actually are. We feel that the people in our lives need to change because we cannot bear the pain of their reality as they are.

Jesus demonstrated on the cross that as Paul wrote, love

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (I Corinthians 13:7)

The power of love is greater and more enduring than all the things I feel must change in order to make my life livable. Love is the source of freedom, because love does not demand that anything change. Love may call me to walk away from certain situations that are destructive and harmful. But, I will only see clearly enough to take life-giving action, when I let go of my expectation that things should be different than they are.


nb: since I started posting these “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening” I have been directed to their original source – please see: http://www.symptomsofinnerpeace.net/Home.html