This is a continuation of the Dating Q&A session from our Valentine’s Day special Sola on Love, Romance and Dating. These are questions that were anonymously texted in by students. To see a full list of questions I have answered so far, click here.
“Isn’t it less romantic to not need someone? Doesn’t that make them less important?”
That is an excellent question, but to fully answer it we need to get a good understanding of what love is. The Bible explains that we know what true love is by experiencing God’s love towards us (1 John 4:9), so if I want to know what love is, I need to know who God is and how he loves (1 John 4:7-8).
God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one God, three distinct persons – the Holy Trinity. The three-in-one Godhead has always existed, uncreated, self-sustaining, living in the community of Himself from eternity past, to eternity future. The doctrine of the triune God may be a difficult one for us to wrap our heads around (How can something be three and one?), but it does communicate to us a fundamental truth about the nature of God’s love.
Because God has always, eternally existed in a community of Himself, that means that there has always been a perfect giving and receiving of love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; perfect, holy love, loving what is ultimately perfect and holy. Reflecting on this, St. Augustine (4th century church father) realized that this meant that when God first created the world, He did not do so out of a sense of loneliness or lack. There had been some poor teaching at the time, and is still around today, that said that before God had created anything, He was lonely all by Himself so He created us. You ever know someone who feels lonely, and then goes out and buys a puppy or kitten, just to have something to keep them company and give them love? That is what this particular bad teaching was essentially saying about God’s purpose for creating you and me. However, God’s purpose in creating the cosmos was not like that – He wasn’t bored, or feeling like He needed someone to help boost his self-esteem. Augustine realized that God exists in a perfect, holy, joyful community of continual love within Himself, therefore if God creates, it cannot be because He is lacking anything, not even community. If God creates it must be because He wants to share out of His divine fullness, not fill up something that He is missing.
God Doesn’t Need You
This means that whatever God is doing in the world, He is doing out of a desire to share His loving fullness. For example, when God demands obedience from His children, He is not doing so because He necessarily needs their obedience – God doesn’t need anything. God is not like an employer who is relying on all His workers to perform their duties so the job can get done. He can do whatever He wants to do, and nothing we contribute or fail to contribute changes what He wills (Psalm 115:3, Dan. 4:34-35, Rom. 8:28). So, if He commands obedience, that must mean that this too is an extension of His sharing and giving of His fullness. Therefore, in all of God’s loving acts towards His children, He is motivated by a desire to give out of fullness, not take out of necessity.
God does not need you in the sense that His joy, happiness, plans, purposes and hopes are dependent on you. You are not the important cog in the machine of the universe, making the plans of God spin. God can do everything He wants to do in the world today without you, and that is great news! Why? Because that means that God just loves you for you, not for what you can give Him. It is true, He has called you to obey Him and to carry out His plans in this world, but it isn’t because you are required, but rather because you are desired. God desires for you to share in the fullness of His joy (Ps. 16:11) – this is why He has called you to obey: out of a desire to give joy.
This is vital to understanding the true essence of love: The benevolence of giving, not the selfishness of taking.
Romance Born From God
When God creates Eve and presents her to Adam, Adam immediately bursts into a romantic poem over his new bride, and the first two words are “At last…” (Gen. 2:23). At last! Those two words connote so much longing and desire; the end of a search, the discovery of the missing piece, the recovery of what was lost. But the fascinating thing to remember is that this is all taking place before sin has entered the world. This means that Adam is still spiritually whole, proclaimed “Very good” by God Himself (Gen. 1:31). Therefore, Adam’s “At last” was not the cry of emptiness, but fullness! Adam lived in an unfettered communion with God Himself – what else could he possibly need? Nothing – Adam needs nothing other than that for his hope, happiness, identity, joy or fullness. So, when Adam cries out “At last!” it is a cry of excitement to share and give the fullness of love and joy he has been given from God to another. This is the nature of love: giving out of fullness.
This means that Adam did not receive Eve as the “missing piece” of his deepest sense of happiness, security and identity; he already had all of that in his relationship with God. His joy comes from being able to mirror the love of God by sharing love from his own God-centered fullness, and Eve would do the exact same back to Adam.
In modern pop-culture today, the concept of “needing” someone else seems to be heralded as the apex of romance. It is riddled all throughout our music, movies and books. We talk about needing our lovers like we need air, or feeling like we don’t even know who we are without them in our lives. Jerry Maguire‘s famous “You complete me” summarizes our view on love today rather succinctly. I, however, think this is exactly backwards as to what love is supposed to be.
Imagine I am holding a big boulder on a busy street. As I struggle to hold the massive rock up, it quickly becomes evident that I need help. So I quickly shout out for someone, and some person runs over and helps. Now, I will be grateful that someone came along and decided to help me. I may even cry out “At last!” as they start to lighten the load. But, it also really didn’t matter who it was that showed up to help me lift the boulder, all that mattered was that someone showed up. I “love” the person for what they give me, not for who they are.
Now, imagine I am holding a pebble in the palm of my hand on that same busy street. I have no problem carrying the weight of the pebble. But imagine I am craning my neck, looking around for someone, and then, after some time, I see my wife and dash over and say, “Look at this little pebble! I thought you would like it.” And I place it in her palm. Now, it is obvious that I do not need help carrying the little stone. So why would I run over and ask her to carry it for me? I can carry it on my own, I don’t need her – but, I want her. I love her and I just want to be with her, not for what she can do for me, but for who she is. If upon reaching my wife, I cry “At last!” it is not a cry of need, but of desire. And that is far better.
Why Desiring is Better Than Needing
If I love someone because they provide me what I need, then I don’t actually love the person, I love what they can do for me. They are the butler that brings me what I really love: a boosted self-esteem, feeling beautiful and desired, looking cooler in social circles, a new identity, a constant source of approval, escape from boredom, an outlet for sexual desires, etc. To “need” someone implicitly means that they are filling in something you are lacking, and therefore become a means to end. When I do not need someone, but simply desire them, they are no longer a tool in my hand to get what I really want – they are what I really want. And they only way to love someone that way is to first be full, and then out of the overflow of my fullness, I give love.
I promise you this, if you come to someone to fulfill your most fundamental needs (happiness, identity, purpose, etc.), it may work for a season, but in time you will find yourself frustrated. The excitement will wear off. They will start to change. Their shortcomings will start to shine through. The notes in the song that once were sweeping and sweet will start to sound out of tune, and you will start to wonder whether or not you chose the wrong person.
And maybe you did choose the wrong partner – or maybe you don’t understand how the song is meant to be played.
We are made to find our fullness in God, not in each other. So when I try to find my meaning, hope and security in a person, I put the weight of God on their shoulders, and that is a weight that no mortal can bear – it will crush them. Ironically, the only way to truly love another is to not need them, by finding all of your needs fulfilled in God. And then, in the fulfillment we find in Him, we can freely give love, with no strings attached. This is God’s love. This is how He loves us. And this is His design for us to love one another.