By Elaine Pratt —
“I have loved enough.”
The words jumped off the page for me, as I contemplated their truth.
They came from a commentary, the writer explaining that Romans 13 teaches we have no debt for our salvation (which I knew), but a HUGE debt as one “in Christ” to love another.
And that debt is never paid, which means we can never say to or about another, “I have loved enough.”
At first, it might not seem that concerning. But then I considered those “hard” people and “toxic” relationships.
You know, the ones that are awkward, unappealing, or uncomfortable on the one hand, and those that are hurtful, hazardous, and have a history of destructiveness, on the other.*
Certainly, in relationships that just don’t work, where there’s a history of difficulty and outright hurt, we can (and should) walk away...right? In a certain sense, to say (as we wipe our hands of the person), “I have loved enough.”
Whoa…maybe I should read the verse again:
“Owe not man anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Since I know I’ll never fulfill the law, that means my debt to love another will always remain.
What does that look like, then? (As a studier and obeyer of the Word, I can’t just move on and hope for an easier command.)
I considered two different kinds of relationships in my life where this may play out. Maybe you can relate.
First, those permanent relationships: the people that I cannot escape as the commitment or relation is irresoluble (like marriage or family). What do I do when this relationship becomes rocky, perhaps deadlocked in an impassable place of disunity, betrayal, or unresolved hurt?
I know for me, when life gets hard or another hurtful, I want to withdraw or withhold myself. I want to resign myself to mere obligation toward them, and I stop trying. I retreat in self-protection or as I like to call it, “wisdom.”
Basically, I say, “I have loved enough.”
But there are also relationships I get to choose: the people I freely move toward to be with, talk to, relate with, invest in, and become close to—friends! What do I do in these relationships when communication breaks down, an offense occurs, a situation in their life renders them “needy,” or life brings a change in season so it is inconvenient to spend the same amount of time as before?
I know for me, when it becomes tiresome or not what I had in mind, I can make excuses for drifting apart, I can think of myself more and my friend less, and I can rationalize that “it’s just the way things are sometimes.”
“I have loved enough.”
But in the light of the truth of my debt of love, which is patterned after the love of God which NEVER gave up but went to the cross to pay the ultimate price, I realize that in both kinds of relationships it should not be, “I have loved enough.”
But perhaps the better question, in the midst of these: “How can I love well?”
Amid the hurt, when life seasons change, if betrayal happens, when the other says, “I’m done,” when disappointment crushes the very heart I gave so freely, it is then that God shines through me most powerfully as I refuse to quit, and instead adjust how my love might be shown…but never, ever walk away from the debt of love.
I ask and live out, “How can I love well??”
And in the context of such a question, God’s grace protects me. For the answer will NEVER lead me into stubborn insistence of my own way, self-oriented self-protection, indifference, retaliation, a refusal to forgive, bitterness, vengeance, slander, manipulation, unkindness or any other response of the flesh that only creates more misery and dishonors our God.
Instead the answer will be gentle, winsome, self-less and other-focused, with a quiet strength that knows it’s not about who seems to be winning or who’s on top. It’s about loving...like God does.
A love that said, “It is finished.”
But never, ever says, “I have loved enough.”
*This post is not intended to address specific situations of abuse; please seek out a trusted believer to help navigate this type of scenario.