When my kids were 12, 10, 8 and 5, we were given a kitten – a Tabby, fluffy and very cute. Tiger, we named him.
The instant center of attention, Tiger never languished for a playmate. All my kids (me too), wanted to be the one pulling the string, rolling the ping-pong ball or feeding him. You couldn’t help but want to be the one. Happiness ambushes you when you play with a kitten. Joy pounces.
But the truly coveted place, especially among my maternal girls, was to be the one person upon whose lap Tiger would nap. “Would you look at that!”, we’d say, pointing to the yellow-orange curl of resting purr. If Tiger went to sleep on your lap, you were special, trusted and chosen. And you would sit very still, stroking gently, making the moment last and your siblings jealous.
This experience became so sought after that my children would fight for the privilege, pulling Tiger back and forth – so that he could rest. Sometimes one of them would chase him through the house, grab him and pin him down with one hand while soothing with the other. You can imagine the result. The cat developed claustrophobia and the child developed claws-trophobia.
My children were making the ‘I-CAN-MAKE-YOU-LOVE-ME MISTAKE.’ They thought, like we all do, that you can do something to make others love you. But you can’t.
Love (and kittens) comes to you on its own accord. Love must be freely given and freely received. The more you try to control it, the more it slips out of your grasp. Real love cannot be bought, manipulated or coerced. You might be able to hold someone near for a while – but sooner or later, they will feel used and unsafe. They might even wound you in order to wiggle away. You will feel rejected. Perhaps you will feel desperate enough to repeat the mistake.
When love pounces, you feel alive. So alive, that you scheme to make it happen on demand. But only a stuffed kitten will accept you on demand. If you want love, and you do, then you have to wait for the real thing.
Learn from the way God loves. You can’t do anything to make Him love you. You can’t purr enough. You can’t be cute enough. He loves you despite your claws. And He waits patiently for you to come to Him.
When you trust God for love – you learn to love others that way too. You give love freely and if they give it back – you accept love freely. That’s the way real love works.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, Roger teaches and leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.
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