I am a first-responder-friend.
A friend who always wants to makes the first move, send the first text, be there when the others disappear. It’s just in my heart to want to be there, perhaps because I spent so many years without having anyone be there, without having anyone to be there for, without letting anyone be there for me.
But it creates an imbalance in my heart, a precarious place where I tend to think “I always am the one doing this first or being there always…” And it’s draining. It’s hard. And I feel like I’m on a balance beam, struggling to stay on top of it, every text or hug or coffee date feeling slightly routine, a balancing act: Send the text, get the coffee, listen. Love, and love well.
Yet, I love it. I really do. It feeds me to listen, it is a huge part of how I take care of myself—I make time for this passion of mine, just like I make time for writing or reading or traveling. I make it a priority.
But I struggle, sometimes, to receive love. I get tired and I think, well, I need to be there for them, but I don’t want them to be there for me. A few weeks ago, I literally stood listening to a friend pouring out her heart to me while simultaneously praying, pleading—oh, please don’t ask that question back to me.
But then, the thoughts keep pleading. I find myself checking social media for likes and hearts and comments and messages. Lonely nights without texts turn into tear-filled questions that always end in Why do I feel so alone?
This imbalance doesn’t just affect me. I’ve dealt with co-dependency and have fostered unhealthy expectations in my heart and in others’. I’ve struggled through intense seasons of forced isolation, building walls and hiding sin.
God, however, has always stepped in. With mercy-filled love in His outstretched hands.
He redeemed a friendship well on the breaking point.
He drew me to Himself by using others to get me out of myself.
He has crushed my walls like Jericho’s—tying a red rope at my window for me to escape by.
Still the imbalance remains, because, when I struggle to be loved, I struggle to give love. When I struggle to let others love me, to let God funnel His love through their words, their presence, I cannot do the same. I cannot be present. I cannot love, and love well.
The imbalance, ultimately, throws me off balance until I’m again behind walls and slamming doors of insecurity in my friends’ faces.
But, I hate the word balance. I don’t want to “find balance” when it comes to love. I don’t want to be on that beam anymore, trying to pull off stunts that show the world I can stay. It’s a lonely place. A place of a four-minute routine that you must do by yourself. No, I don’t want to balance out this need to be love and to be loved. I don’t want to figure out a routine that best suits me and my heart to stay up here, balanced and steady.
Friendship—love—can never be steady. It will always be shaky. Shaking hands, sharing hearts, speaking words is both not easy and not hard. It’s a necessity and I don’t want to balance between them and me—I want to give love away freely. Without measure. Without expectation. Without reciprocation.
Because isn’t that exactly what God has done for us?
He doesn’t do a balancing act with His covenant love, a sliding scale of “I’ll love you if…” He just loves, He keeps His promises, and He does it extravagantly. And we grimace because we know what we do: we balk and run at any sign of extravagance, any chance that this is too good to be true. Because it scares us. The thought of what happens when we cannot love well enough terrifies us.
But it doesn’t have to. Because there is no fear in His kind of love, no punishment to be paid anymore. It is finished didn’t cancel the covenant; it completed our portion. It signed our names. Rather, it signed His name over ours. And when we turn in faith to see this kind of love full-faced, we don’t find a balance beam. We find two beams.
We find a cross.
We find love: uncompromised, uncovered, unbalanced—murdered for us. Sacrificed for us.
There’s no greater love than this, the Savior on death row said. No greater love than a servant laying His words, His work, His life down on the line for another.
And three days after the greatest love became a mystery no more—love came back to life.
And that love is still alive. Living inside of our hearts, our broken, still-so-fearful hearts, not wanting to be a mystery anymore. Not to us. Not to those we get to love. Not wanting to be an imbalanced routine anymore, but to give itself wholeheartedly to whomever it happens to be among. To give love, to be love—even as I let myself be loved.
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return, the song sings.
And we will find ourselves singing, too, His song of love, if we will dismount the imbalanced fail-safe we think will keep us safe and just give ourselves over to the love that was never balanced in the first place.
Do we run the risk of a lopsided relationship? Absolutely. That is the relationship we have with God—He always loves first and most…Throughout Scripture God is the one who loves more than He is loved. He always makes the first move. He advertises His extravagant affection for us even when we are indifferent or opposed to Him…But through it all His love was unwavering. In this, He established the pattern for true humanness. This is the way we were intended to be. This is life in the Kingdom. It wants love, but it wants even more to love others deeply. Its treasure is to grow in the fruits of the Spirit, foremost of which is to love others.
—from Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Edward Welch