How do you know when love is real?


Love/Grace Part 2


I was in love once. Or at least I thought I was in love. Why? I suppose it gave me purpose. A higher calling? But, everyone I knew would have said something different. I couldn’t see what I needed to see…yet. People would gaze upon my puffy eyes and downcast demeanor and recognized I had been around him. It was like I went blind. I said things I should never have said. I believed things I should never have believed. That was my love once. That “love” was harsh, demanding, critical and graceless. It was toxic. It brought out the very worst in me, and left me wondering when it all ended, “what was point of that love?”

Paul was once in love, too. With religion. Imagine with me, if you will, what it would be like to watch the stoning of a man who claims to love God even though you claim to love God…and you enjoy it. Imagine Stephen, this humble Christian man who posed no threat, begging God to forgive these people murdering him. And that act didn’t move Saul to think “hmmm maybe this isn’t the right thing to do.” It only moved him to set his sights on destroying more Christians, ripping apart faith before it even took root. It emboldened him to work tirelessly and vigorously to imprison and demolish Christ in the name of love. That “love” brought out the utter worst in him. Why? Maybe he thought it gave him purpose, a higher calling? But everyone in the wake of his destruction would have said differently. He definitely didn’t see it…yet.

We all know people that bring out the utter worst in us. Just them walking into the room has us on pins and needles, mentally rolling our eyes and planning our exit strategy. How many of us once were or are those people to somebody else? And not just to coworkers, or a frenemy but to someone we were “in love with?” We were unaware of our toxicity.

Toxic relationships are like that, they turn our compass around and manipulate our morals. They bring out the utter worst in us, even though in the moment we truly believe we are doing the best we can for ourselves and others around us. Toxic relationships are weaknesses made strong, an overpowering of everyone they come in contact with. Insecurities on parade.

Paul was not in a relationship with God, but most definitely in a toxic relationship with religion. It led him down a critical, harsh and graceless path. That is most certainly what a relationship with religion looks like. The predictable thing for God to do was to let him get what he deserved. To give him a taste of what he had done to his faithful followers. what I would have done!

But, that is not what God did at all. He did the most unpredictable, ridiculous thing possible; He reached out to love him. He blinded him in the most wonderful way.

Now this isn’t an invitation to get romantically involved with those who bring out the worst in us. It does, however, testify of a love that does what human love cannot do. Works through our weaknesses to extend love and grace. Christ took Saul’s emboldened desire to cure the world of Jesus to in turn fill the world with Him.

The goal of our human love is to overlook the detriments of our significant other. Why else would anyone participate in dating? Dating provides opportunity to work around flaws and overcome difficulties. Love with God is completely opposite. God doesn’t look at us to count red flags or to see what He needs to navigate around. He works through our weaknesses to shine brighter and bolder. And it all comes back to the first question; “What is the point of that love?” 

First, to work with us. Let’s be real. God doesn’t need us to get a job done. But He loves us, and He wants to do everything with us.

In our weakness only God shines. In any other case people could say, it’s the money, or it’s the looks, or it’s the connections. But in our weakness people are left saying, “it’s the Lord.”  Our weakness on parade becomes Christ on parade. When we think that we are good enough, when our credentials and heritage qualify us for love, then we have missed the point.

 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”


April is an Assistant Chaplain in Texas; she and her fiancé are getting married in June.