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I Don't Want to Love You

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Most readers know I have a little boy with Down Syndrome, Isaac. Consistent with prevailing stereotypes, Isaac is indeed an outstanding LOVE-er. When he loves, he loves with unguarded, soul-piercing, heart-melting abandon. He hugs, kisses, and caresses with zeal, says, "I love you" many times a day, and routinely greets me as though I'd been away a long time. This isn't universal or 24/7, but it's regular enough to be noted. That is, until I say, "No." I believe Isaac is more closely connected to the heavenly realm than the rest of us, so I think his guileless reply offers supernatural insight.

I don't want to love you!

If I say, "No," take Isaac's iPad mid-match, or interrupt his obsessive viewing of the LeBrandt Family for dinner, he gets mad and digs his heels in like nobody's business. (Yes, obstinacy is another common and validated DS trait ;-) My usual response is to persevere, punctuated by a playfully encouraging, "I love you."

At such times, Isaac replies, "I don't want to love you." Not the traditional, "I don't love you," or "I hate you," but "I don't want to love you." This is really deep.

"I know, buddy," I normally reply sympathetically. "But you can't help but love me."

This is true. He can’t. That’s tough sometimes.

Inherent to love is a variation of submission. If you love someone, you care about what they want, feel, think, and even require. If you love someone, they do have a form of power over you, benevolent or otherwise.

Love is costly.

At church last Sunday, during a message on marriage, one of our pastors emphasized the essential and encompassing quality of love to a successful relationship. This pastor, whom I like quite a lot because of his very dry wit, reminded all of us (in case we forgot) that the single most important commandment is to love. Jesus Himself actually said not just to love, but to...

‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"(Matthew 22:37-39).

"Gee, is that all?"

The Bible also offers a helpful, if not impossible, checklist of what love is.

Thus, I've already failed ingloriously since I'm not only divorced, but am generally love-impaired. No doubt, this is why God, in his abounding and highly personalized love and mercy, gave me Isaac, the love expert.

I don't know about you, but I've not been all that successful at willing myself to love anyone with all my anything. I cannot control my thinking, much less my soul or heart--least of all, really.

Like a lot of folks, I suspect, the closest to this type of love that I've experienced is parental love. I'm madly in love with my kids, and pretty good at demonstrably loving them, but honestly way short of as universally, unconditionally, and selflessly as I'd like. In fact, it's pretty selfish, my kid-love. They came out of my body, after all, flesh of my flesh.

And if "as we love ourselves" is to be the empowering principle, it would disqualify giant segments of humanity who don't love themselves so much.

As for loving others, God knows I'm oh-so-willing. It's. Just. Hard.

Moreover, I've been both on the giving and the receiving end of the willful variety of love, and it tends to feel like crap. It's pretty easy to discern when someone is "loving" you out of duty. It's not only flat and lifeless, it usually smacks of grudgy contempt. This seems to be the case with the trendy, self-satisfied "pseudo-love wins" love-like message that is so pervasive on social media these days. It sounds like,

"I not-so-secretly think you're a *&^$@!-far-right-far-left-masker-unmasked-vaxxer-anti-vaxxer-fill-in-the-blank-as-you-see-fit-us-v-them, but I love you."

Or more commonly, punctuated by a heart emoji ♥. This kind of love--obligatory, oozing, often unctuous--actually hurts. The Christian version, as televangelist Joyce Meyer used to laughingly lament is, "I love you with the love of the Lord," delivered with that saccharine church-voice some folks employ to convey their "obedient" love of people they dislike, or more commonly, judge.

"No thank you."

Worse yet, is loving out of fear. Like devotion to an evil dictator, abusive spouse, or yes, scary god. Thankfully, God is clear on this, too.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)

Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15).

Yeesh! That’s another doozy. It's not even that I don't want to obey Christ. Honestly, I really do believe God's suggested guidelines for living are in my best interests (and yours), just as I want the very best for my own kids. Having finally recognized the truth of this God-love, a lot of the time, I want to comply. Still, I routinely fail. I simply cannot make myself keep His commands. And when I do, it can tend to produce a self-satisfied haughtiness that is anything but loving.

The very Good News.

In the end, Isaac's spontaneously defiant retort, "I don't want to love you!" when loving me is inconvenient or costly, neither prevents me from loving him or lessens my love for him one iota. Actually, Isaac makes a really cute, purse-lipped, lovable little face when he's angry.

Likewise, my failure to keep THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT (hear Charlton Heston's ominously booming baritone) cannot, will not, does not stop God's never-ending, unconditional, all-embracing love for me. Even when I'm not-so-cute.

After revealing the impossible love standard, at the conclusion of His earthly ministry, Jesus Himself provided the love remedy with His death on the cross. Thanks to Jesus, absolutely nothing can separate me from God's love.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

That's very Good News indeed.

Remember: God loves you no matter what.

Grace, peace, joy & love,

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