Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
These words are repeated hundreds of times each day, by pastors, by prayers, by puberty-ridden girls. Its notion is pure, its intentions are to do good, and similar to the Word itself, stresses that faithfulness will be rewarded. And it will. However, if there had been an alternate ending to 1 Corinthians or if a Newer Testament were published today, I would like it to elaborate on the vast complexities of unconditional love. Because it is patient, it is kind, but it is also very burdening.
He came into my life at a time of grief. Like a grey cloud rung to dry, my life was a mess. I had a mother battling cancer, and I had just exited an abusive relationship. Abandoned by friends and kept company by depression, he was my desperate prayers answered. He cradled my heart with kindness; he nursed me back to health. In the time we were in a relationship, a developed an unwavering, unconditional love for him. He wasn’t just my lover, he was family.
It always stays with you. The romantic remnants have long dissipated; fantasies of reconciliation became faint, and with time I was able to accept that we as a unit had seen our end. That’s how love works. With unconditional love, however, your wellness for them runs deep in your veins. When I kneel, I still pray for the man who broke my heart because at one time, he held my heart. When he pops into my head, even on the days the mirage makes me lose my balance, I love him, I hope for him, I care for him. It’s not something I boast in nobility; I wish I didn’t possess a heart so tender. I am constantly snagged by the tattered pieces of his presence, and I think it would be easier if I hadn’t loved him the way I had. Like a ghost; the love haunts you, and like a ghost; you wonder if the love was ever even there. But through the damning regrets, you know you would never really ‘give up the ghost.’
It doesn’t compare. Carrie Underwood put it best in her single “Wine After Whiskey”; ‘Once you’ve tasted a love that strong you can’t go back and you can’t settle on, anything else and that’s what gets me.’ This was the relationship that taught me love isn’t measured in gestures (it can’t really be measured at all) but displayed more justly through sacrifices. Unconditional love is making yourself a refuge for the other person. It’s giving them what they need and what they don’t know they need; helping them financially and emotionally, faithfully. For better or worse, I made his happiness and needs a priority. I became his family when a fatal car crash affected this, when he stubbornly adjusted to post-graduate life, when he didn’t know or love himself. What I felt when I cared for him was a feeling so cozy, I could have lived there forever. So when forever is no longer an option, and you move on, you date again. You get excited again. But until you experience that cozy feeling you get from sacrifice, you never feel unconditional love again. And that’s what gets me.
It is resilient. For the moments you know you should give up; you don’t, you won’t and you never will. Because in spite of the destruction and in spite of the lies, you know this to be true: you unconditionally love him. Even when you love yourself to finally walk away from the relationship, you love him. Which is different than wanting to be with him. You don’t want him, you just want the best for him; today, tomorrow and forever.
I found each time I spoke sentiments to him during our relationship, I was subconsciously taking a vow. Love is patient, love is kind. Love is unforgettable, incomparable and resilient and incredibly irrational. And this is how you get broken by angel.