She was single. At an adult time in life when most would assume and presume to be married. Or is that true? Many of her friends were also alone. Grown children. Estranged spouses. Sometimes more than one. In some cases, a deceased spouse. A lifetime of anticipated marriage and a dream of growing old together had certainly taken an unexpected and unwelcome turn for each of them.
Once in awhile, she and her single friends might discuss loneliness – the dream of actually finding a soul mate. Often, they iterated the good; how really nice it was to be single and independent, to arrange life without regard to the strong opinion of another. Some joined singles groups online or in person in an active bid to find a partner. One or two friends were openly desperate, chasing a string of lovers. Others quietly waited and pined.
Secure in her singleness, outwardly content, with a measure of independence, she still found herself one day in deep longing and yearning.
She was out walking (although it could have been any legitimate hobby or activity beloved by an individual; knitting, painting, golfing, yoga). Minding her own business. Steadily moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. She was suddenly overcome by longing and yearning. Articulating the feeling, she said, “I would give anything to be loved!” She sighed and coddled the pangs of longing for a few moments.
“Really?” asked her brain. “Have you not done this before with less than satisfactory result? Would you repeat the past? Hold on to someone who didn’t want to stay? Help someone who didn’t want your help?”
Love is not a thing you can barter and get a guaranteed return. Love cannot be enforced. It is ineffective to say, “Look how much I gave up for you! Now you are obligated to love me unconditionally.”
There is such a thing as strong, healthy self-respecting, other-respecting self- sacrificial love. There are things you give up, willingly out of your love for others. For family you love. You self-sacrifice willingly your goods, your desires, even your life to directly love someone else. But, when you give, or give up, in a bid to get that other person to love you because you so desperately need love, that is unhealthy.
So. What would you give for love? Would you give up your writing? Your music? Your goals? Your successes? For a time, yes, to care for a dearly loved one. But for life? For the whims of others?
“Love,” said wise counsel, “is not 50 / 50. It is 100% / 100%. You bring 100% of who you are into a relationship. But if you give up all you are, you no longer have 100% to give. You have nothing to give.”
She reconsidered the ancient parable of the 7 foolish and 7 wise virgins. Be wise. Be always prepared. She got that part loud and clear. For decades she was perplexed by the fact that the wise virgins did not share with the foolish – did not give up their provisions self sacrificially. And Jesus, who was telling the story, thought that was okay? Yes.
Why? Because to split their oil would, a few miles down the road, cast everyone into darkness and make all 14 of them the loser. How much better for the seven wise to hold their torches high, full of oil, and spread light on everyone – even the seven foolish. In this way the wise, the prepared multiplied their effectiveness and shared light with everyone.
“So. Be it known,” she said, “I will not again sacrifice who I am and who I am designed to be in a bid to get someone to love me enough. I will bring my 100% and shed all my light on the relationship until my oil is spent and my light extinguished.”