Each year around Valentine’s Day, thoughts are focused on love — on loving and being loved. And it’s usually not the “for God so loved the world” unconditional, sacrificial kind of love either. It’s the sappy, overwhelming, feel-good, affirming, affectionate, kissy-poo kind of love. Thoughts of tender moments and being held in the arms of someone who loves you dearly. For at least one day, two hearts beat as one.
Sadly, it appears that bold, selfless, passionate, loving expressions are limited to very few courageous people and overall headed for extinction. Most young people who have never been married still have high hopes in everlasting romance. But for those who are “single again,” there is usually a significant amount of pain associated with that reality. Divorce tears apart hearts that used to glow and grow together. Death separates loving hearts. Infidelity, domestic abuse and fear of trusting or being vulnerable again also cause a freezing chill to blow across love’s landscape.
The fear of being hurt or betrayed prompt many people to grow distant, a little colder each year, untouchable, unfeeling — yet internally, there still burns a yearning to live and love again.
God created us for human relationships — specifically for marriage.
Marriage was the first institution God established. When that bond is broken, there is a tendency to become cynical, fearful and disillusioned. Add to that the busyness that invades our lives and the rigidity of our routines and, Voila! We’ve created the perfect emotional Ice Age ushering in the extinction of truly loving and being loved.
1. Check for fear.
Yet God reminds us in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” What an enormous, thought-provoking statement! Loving with any element of fear isn’t love at all. The slightest hesitation. The smallest fear. Timidity in expressing how you feel. A small hint of inhibitions (fear of being vulnerable, exposed, or completely open with someone) or holding even part of yourself in reserve. Each one of these reactions is a red flag needing further discovery before making any further emotional investment.
This may seem like a very harsh observation. But if what Scripture says is true and there is no fear in love, then loving someone should not involve fear, reserves, hesitation, timidity, inhibitions, or even mediocrity. It should be the fullest, most willingly vulnerable expression for someone who reciprocates in a mutual manner with the same interest level and intensity.
2. Proceed with caution.
Of course, a certain amount of caution at the beginning of any potential relationship is advisable. Expressing your undying love on a first date is the best way to ensure you won’t get a second. But after an appropriate amount of time, fear should evaporate — if it is truly love that you feel.
Any hesitation or reservation could also be divine nudges from the Holy Spirit as He warns you against involvement with someone who would harm you, is not the right “fit” for you, or who is outside God’s plan for your life. This is where patient discernment and personal inventory come into play. Analyze your hesitation to determine if it stems from a personal fear, an emotional wound that hasn’t healed, or if it is a warning from God. If you have some healing or maturing to do, invest the time in yourself to do so. However, if you confirm it to be divine intervention, you owe it to yourself to move on quickly and don’t look back.
3. Invest wisely.
This underscores the importance of not high-diving in the shallow end of the pool. Don’t emotionally invest yourself in someone until and unless you’ve gotten to know them and have discovered commonalities and compatibilities spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Don’t rush in and simply hear “what the heart wants to hear.” Give differences the same attention as commonalities — that’s where the deal breakers are found. Of course, not all differences are deal breakers — but they help you identify your tolerance level for those differences. Some differences may be adaptable preferences while others are nonnegotiable convictions.
4. Express yourself with confidence.
But once you’ve moved past this initial discovery and you are progressing in your relationship, keep in mind there is no fear in love. Perfect (complete) love has no fear. If you love someone, you dare to express it. If you love someone, you love even though you risk not having that love returned. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (bold emphasis added). Countless times Moses encouraged Joshua to be bold and courageous. I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (bold emphasis added).
All throughout Scripture we are encouraged to do everything with boldness, great gusto, and no reserves or inhibitions. Yes, Jesus cautions us to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). After the initial diligence during the discovery phase of dating, and if the feelings that develop over time are mutual and reciprocal, turn it loose! Love fully, freely, and fearlessly! Willingly love with reckless abandon! There is nothing better than to love and be loved like that.
5. Love fearlessly.
So what is holding you back today from fully loving and expressing your love? Is there something within you that is doubtful of your partner? Doubtful of yourself? Maybe you have an emotional pain that has not been fully healed? Could it be you are desperately holding on to some past memorable, nostalgic relationship instead of moving on with life? Maybe you are projecting past mistakes or hurts onto any new prospective dating partners and your lack of trust (and maybe bitterness) are chasing them away?
Whatever it is that is causing the inner fear, face it, address it, and resolve it before investing further in any dating relationship. Allow God to heal what needs to be healed so you can truly love again — fearlessly!