There’s nothing like a good fight. Or maybe there’s no such thing as a good fight. Honestly, I don’t know how it happens, but how is it that I can get so spun up about something as ridiculous as the setting on the thermostat or the basic instructions to building an IKEA bookshelf? How do I end up on the business end of the cold shoulder? How on earth does this happen?
The world is made of relationships, and relationships are wrought with conflict and friction. They happen everywhere – at work, at home, on the street, in our texting, in our live conversations. Relationships happen everywhere, and conflict does too. Conflict seems like it’s just sort of lurking, waiting for us. All it takes is one poke in the wrong place, and all of a sudden an argument comes rushing out in attitudes and words and hatefulness and unkind actions. It happens all the time, sadly, and most especially with the people who mean the most to us.
So why do we fight so much? I believe it’s because we are constantly asking the people around us one basic question: “Am I loved?” This is a natural and normal question. In fact, we do this without thinking about it. You were born with this implicit question that you ask every day, and you’re asking it right now even if you don’t realize it. Infants, before they even have a cognitive thought, are wondering if they are loved. Even adults who have lived their entire lives to a measure of success are still asking themselves this question. We ask it in a thousand different ways. Am I loved? Am I valuable? Am I interesting? Am I contributing to the world? Am I loved?
We are forever turning to one another to ask and answer this question, and there’s just so much on the line. When your entire identity, value, and worth are at stake in your every interaction, then something as trivial as the setting on the thermostat or the instructions on the IKEA furniture can send you into orbit. You may begin to wonder if he loves you enough—or even at all—if he’s willing to keep the house at a frigid temperature. You begin to question how she could ever respect your intelligence as a human being if she still insists on being the keeper of the instructions and the hammer.
Our understanding of love often seems connected to how others make us feel about ourselves. We naturally gravitate toward people who make us feel good, people who compliment us, people who give us perspectives that we enjoy hearing about ourselves. Anyone who has ever tried to make a friend, be a friend, or keep a friend has used this principle. We naturally gravitate toward people who make us feel good about who we are.
When we ask this ever-present question, and when we find positive answers from the people around us, we perceive this as love. Here’s the problem: this isn’t really love. It isn’t even close to love. It’s our egos digging the way we feel. There’s a big difference between love and ego, and if we confuse the two, we find ourselves in a terrible spot.
Don’t take your need for a God-sized love into any other relationship in your life. The relationship will collapse under the burden of this need. It’s far too important of a question to lay in the hands of a friend or neighbor or even a spouse. Perhaps you can’t understand why the relationships in your life keep falling apart. It’s because some of us have the habit of taking our need for a God-sized love into the relationships around us. Those relationships aren’t big enough or strong enough to meet that need.
When you ask if you are loved, the only place you can find a sure and solid answer is from God himself. He’s the only one who will answer that question independent of what you do. He established your identity when he created you, and he established your worth and value when Jesus died for you on the cross. This is the only place where you can get this question answered. If you take this question into your human relationships, you will find it painfully difficult to find an answer at all.
I wish we could answer this question once and for all, but it’s not how we’re made. We ask this question every day. The important part is to ask the right person. If we ask the wrong sources, we’ll only end up with bruised egos and no real answers, over and over again.
God, please give us the courage to bring our greatest question to you. May we hear a resounding yes throughout Scripture, again and again, that we are loved. You have made us, designed us, and created us for this relationship with you. Help us to know this, so that we may move into other relationships where there is pain and conflict and difficulty, that we may love boldly and without condition. And may we be transformed.
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Tricia Lott Williford lives and writes in Denver. She attends Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado, and many of her articles on faith are born from the conversations and teachings of her pastor, Phil Vaughan. You can join the conversation with Southeast’s online services this weekend, and you can give God five minutes today with their simple daily reading plan.