You Don’t Have to Try
The other night, I was watching So You Think You Can Dance, one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It’s a summer series that showcases the talent and hard work of trained artists who compete to become America’s favorite dancer.
In the most recent episode, one couple did a beautiful Broadway piece based on the age-old game ‘He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not’. The dance began with the girl plucking petals of a flower, waiting around for a man she wasn’t sure loved her. The ambivalence of his heart was as flighty as the petals that floated to the ground. In the interview before the routine, the female dancer described the emotions and thoughts that motivated her character. “Maybe this time, he’ll stay. Maybe this time, I’ll win his love,” she said. To me, it mirrored the all-to-true reality of our lives as humans who want to be loved.
How often do we work to earn someone’s affection? If you’re anything like me, you want to find a place where you belong and be with people who like and accept you.
You may be starting the academic year in a new school surrounded by unfamiliar places and people. Maybe you’re returning to the same school or workplace where you’ve been for the last several years. You may be searching for your first taste of true love, or you may be divorced and looking for love all over again. Maybe you’re a new parent, or perhaps you just watched your youngest child graduate or get married. You could be anywhere in the world at any stage in life. It really doesn’t matter. The truth remains constant: You want to be accepted and loved.
So, we play the part to prove we are worthy, to show that we are good and lovable. We put our makeup on and get our hair done. We wear the latest fashions. We max our credit cards. We work out and watch what we eat, heaven forbid we gain a few pounds. We say the right things, to the right people, at the right times. We try to sound funny, to be smart, to look beautiful. We try, with all our being, to belong and be liked. And, all too often, we completely give ourselves away in the process.
But what’s the point in laboring for the love of someone who can’t see outside of themselves? What’s the point in working to appeal to someone who doesn’t have the ability to see you?
If you have to work for someone’s love, is that really the kind of person you want to be around? Even if you strive, toil, and exhaust yourself, and finally win their favor, is that really even love?
Here’s the truth: If you have to work for love, then you’ll never actually have it.
We’ve been conditioned to live the American dream: If you work hard, you’ll get everything you’ve ever wanted. Receiving love for free, then, almost feels like a scam. After all, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Right?
But let’s say that because you’re awesome (and I know you are), you do win that person’s affection. How would you know their love is true and not the counterfeit kind? How could they prove that they truly, wholly, and unconditionally love you?
Would they go to the electric chair to be executed in your place?
That sounds drastic, I know, but take a second to think – really think – about how deep and real that love would have to be. And yet, that’s exactly what Christ did on the cross. 2,000 years before you were even born. Centuries and centuries before you could even think about working for His affection.
So when it comes to God, we don’t have to pluck away any more petals. We don’t have to wonder, question, or worry. We don’t have to try to gain His favor. The answer is clear: He loves us.