True confession: boys kind of scare me.
Okay, hear me out. I know I’m not the only one who’s a little bit afraid of the opposite sex. Think for a second about the moment you see that one guy or gal with the sweetest eyes and a smile like sunshine, and you think, “You seem like someone I could be happy with,” and you consider going up to them and saying, “I think you’re really cool, and I’d like to get to know you. Want to go out sometime?”
And then you start thinking about the horrific possibility that you’ll ask and they’ll stare off into the distance and say, “Uuuumm…I’m sorry…” and then they won’t talk to you ever again because they think you’re some lovesick fool who wants to wear their fingernail clippings in a locket around your neck. I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. Love is scary because it involves letting yourself be fully seen and risking the possibility that the other won’t understand or like what they see.
A couple weeks ago, I read an article entitled “Concerning the Lover and His Advance” by Jean-Luc Marion for my literature directed study with Prof. Westerholm. And what Marion said turned my world upside down.
Marion points out that the most common idea of love is one of reciprocity — you love me this much, and I love you exactly that much in return. This concept also involves an expectation that you will love me first so I can be safe in how much I love you back: “I will play the game of love, certainly, but I will only risk the least amount possible, and on condition that the other go first.”
The problem with this idea is that it insists that the most important part about love is the fact that someone loves you. But if I have learned anything from the love God has shown me through His people at Northwestern, it is that the most important part about love is the fact that it is given, and given unconditionally, without expectation.
I have always hated when confidants would respond to my misery over a certain crush with the question: “What do you have to lose?” I can always come up with an answer.
But according to Marion’s vision of love, there is absolutely nothing to lose: “The lover has the unmatched privilege of losing nothing, even if he happens to find himself unloved, because a love scorned remains a love perfectly accomplished, just as a gift refused remains a perfectly given gift.” No matter the response we get to our love, we always retain the identity of one who loves first and without condition.
So the next time we encounter those beautiful people we’d like to know better, how about we stop worrying about whether they will like us and just show them our appreciation for the beauty of God we see in them?
Perhaps instead of thinking, “You seem like someone who could make me happy,” we would all be happier if we thought, “You seem like someone I could give happiness to.”