Immature Love: A Necessary Stepping Stone in the Christian Life
I love her because…
My wife celebrated another birthday recently (I won’t say which one!). My family’s tradition at birthday dinners is for each person to say three reasons they love the particular birthday-person.
Every year Theressa and I notice a very interesting pattern.
My younger children begin with “I love mommy because she makes me food,” or “I love my mommy because she cuddles with me.”
While the older children state things like, “I love mom because she is so kind…” and then give an example.
My wife pointed this out and then reflected on the cuteness of this immature love.
It isn’t that my younger children don’t love her; it’s that they haven’t had enough time to see her apart from how she treats them.
Mature love is about time.
This phenomenon isn’t just seen in children. It can be seen in teens and adults who have just fallen in love.
Case in point: look at a lot of our love songs. Many are focused on how the loved one makes the author feel.
For example, take the number one love song of the year according to Google, Perspective by Bailey Bryan, in it, she’s “gotta say”, “That I got a new perspective, All ‘cause you respect this… I got everything I need, and it’s all because of you” (see the lyrics here). The rest is pretty much like that…all about how he makes her feel.
It isn’t bad to be childish in our love of anyone. That’s how our love starts!
An immature expression is a step to a deeper more mature expression.
Where am I going with this?
You can see the same thing in our love for God. When we first become Christians we say things like, I love God because He died for my sins, or because He answers my prayers. And that is how it should be.
Again, these are not bad, they are first steps toward a deeper more mature expression.
The more we know God, the less our love for Him is centered on what He did for us or how He makes us feel, but rather on who He is in His character.
Our worship music is similar. While some expound in prayer on needing more faith in God, or something else, a lot of worship music expresses our love in immature terms.
“You are…to me” or “Jesus you did this for me…”
I love and lead many songs like this, and we should.
But my challenge is not to get stuck in this type of expression only. Grow in your love for God by knowing God for who He is.
Press on to praise God for who He is apart from you: that He is kind, He is great, He is true, that He made the world and created beauty and joy. We can list a thousand things that He is in himself, apart from us.
This isn’t a mental exercise. Just like my ability to talk about my wife as intelligent, gracious, relational and beautiful is not bland observation. Such expressions come from intimate knowledge over time and are expressions of deeply rooted love.
That’s why it is mature, because it takes time.
It will take time getting to know God in His word. Getting to know Him in prayer. Watching how He acts in creation, in history, in others, and in yourself. In time, you will see who God is in Himself and He will give you a way to express your love for Him in more terms than what He’s done for us.