Life Is: To Love and To Be Loved

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The countdown to returning to the sunny island we call ‘home’ begins. It was just months ago that we packed our luggages, bid our farewells, (maybe) shed our tears and embraced our loved ones; vivid memories at the airport still remain. At milestones as this, the fleeting nature of time confronts us and somehow takes us by surprise each time. Shouldn’t we have arrived at enough milestones as such to realise that our lives are like fog – here for the moment and gone in the next? Shouldn’t that realization compel continuous pursuit for greater? From the earlier days in Sydney, I had been seeking ‘love’ that I knew ‘had all answers’, that ‘always makes a way’; the ‘love’ that fills us with joy and peace, ‘love’ that builds character. Preceding years of service and volunteerism, convicted me of the incomparable value of ‘love’ that I yearned to be the foundation for my life.

Months on from leaving home, I discover the truth that we all receive an incredible love that my words do little justice to. My prayer is that reading this would encourage you to, too, seek true, pure and complete love that exists instead of settling for the counterfeit love that hinders us from that which is authentic and immeasurable.

Love is not selfish

In primary school, idle afternoons would be taken by poor movie choices, consisting mostly of chick flicks. Each of which provided an inaccurate and incomplete illustration of ‘love’ –  friendships were littered with betrayal and backstabbing, while the so-called ‘love’ between the couple that eventually gets together was more often characterized by attraction and affection, nothing more (think Mean Girls, High School Musical or Easy A). As my female peers (and now myself) enter university, there has been increasing pressure to seek ‘love’ in the ways of the world that we have been taught. We hear stories of “who’s entering the upcoming pageant”, “who’s dating who” and “who’s done it already” within the first weeks of university. No one talks about it aloud but within, fear and insecurities brew – What if I don’t find someone? What if I am unlovable? What if there’s no other way to love but this? But since when did being attached and engaging in sexual activity become measuring sticks for love and ‘lovability’.

These lies compound and we so often settle for the selfish love that is not love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is selfishness. ‘Selfish love’ is an oxymoron, for true love does not demand its own way. Love is not self-seeking. Today’s relationships (both boy-girl relationships and friendships) are so often premised on how the other can meet one’s emotional and physical needs – the increasing co-habitation trends in young couples are reflective of our taking one another on ‘trial sessions’, to see one’s fit to meeting our own needs. Friendships are no longer about sticking it out with each other through the ups and downs, but about the unspoken transactions. Until we commit to learning love that is not selfish, we are nightmares to be friends with or to date; betrayals and heartbreaks waiting to happen.

How many of us truly enter the relationships in our lives seeking to serve the other person wholeheartedly, instead of considering what we can gain from the relationship? Have we chosen selfishness over love that is not selfish?

Love is complete acceptance

For some part of my life, my frizzy hair was a source of great insecurity. Growing up amongst girls with long and straight hair made me think that my curly hair was unusual rather than unique. It is rarely discussed, but I came to find out from vulnerable conversations that every person struggles with some part of their appearance or their character – it is a shared human experience. Each of us, if asked for a part of ourselves we hoped to change, could most definitely come up with a list immediately. There is a difference, though, between wanting that change from a place of love (seeking growth) and wanting that change from a place of resentment (seeding destruction).

Especially in the Asian context, we are taught to treat ourselves harshly as a form of discipline towards change and betterment. There is, though, a discipline that comes from love that begins from a place of complete acceptance. Think of someone in your life whom you are certain about his/her love for you and consider this – in your imperfection and many weaknesses, this person has chosen to love you and loves you still. Does that mean that he/she will not want you to seek development and growth? Does that mean that he/she will love you any less when you change because you pursue a better version of yourself? One who truly loves you will love you too much to let you remain the way you are and instead, compel you with that love of complete acceptance to become better and better every day.

I have lost count of the number of times my emotional vulnerability has been taken advantage of in relationships. Over time, I have come to learn that those who truly love me not only protect and cherish it, but support me in learning to harness empathy as a strength. Love rejoices in our gifts being brought to light and tramples upon injustice. Are we pursuing the best version of ourselves every day from a place of love or resentment? Are we assured that we receive unconditional love even if we are imperfect and we will change? Or is conditional love taking the guise of true love, limiting the greatness that you were made for?

Love is life

Let’s ask ourselves, “What in this life is worth dying for?” because that same thing would then, be worth living for. Our futile pursuits that lead us deeper into emptiness assure us of the many things that are not worthwhile – our grades, achievements, travels and even memories will fade away in the matter of time. This strategy of elimination, though, is not quite time effective especially considering the fog-like nature of our lives. The dissipation is already happening; with every moment we draw closer to the end of this life.

We are all on our own journeys towards the truth of what this time on earth is meant for: for a long time, I had been lost in the roundabout busyness that our world draws us into. Today, I feel more alive every day and the turning point started in the moment I decided to make love my one calling. Throwing aside the things that were hollow of meaning, so that I had two hands empty to embrace the calling to love. I challenge you to do the same – reject the counterfeit love of this world and seek love, truly – then watch your life be radically changed as was mine. One that is not selfish and accepts completely, truly. I look forward to your testimony of life change, write to me at shng4630@uni.sydney.edu.au.

“Many of us live with incredible tension and anxiety because we think that our dreams will come true if we just get the right degree, if we just meet the right people, if we just get the right job. We assume our happiness is tied to our success, and our success depends on our performance. So we sweat and struggle and scheme and strategize, and we wonder why we aren’t enjoying life.” 
 Judah Smith, Author of Life Is ­­­­­­_______

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