As of late I’ve been finding this ridiculous grin spread across my face, the kind that makes my mom ask me if I’ve fallen in love and strangers in the park look at me a little funny. While I would hope this contentedness and joy was akin to that described by Paul in Philippians 4, I’m fairly certain this mixture of gratefulness and happiness is almost entirely dependent on my circumstances and the people in my life.

I feel overwhelmingly loved, and needed, by so many: the young women I lead at church, the clinical team and patients at work, my host family that has welcomed me into their home both physically and emotionally, the Fellows; there are even days when the city itself seems happy to be my home. And with being needed, appreciated, and wanted comes an ease to love these people, places and things in return.

But if I pause and take off my rose-colored glasses, I realize the source of my contentedness and overflowing love is faulty and unsure, not fully reflective of the gospel that I pledge my life to. As I reflected on where all of this goodness has been bubbling up from, I was reminded of a particular thought of C.S. Lewis’ written in his book The Four Loves. There Lewis describes those he sees as drawing nearer to heaven in this present life as they who:

“need men less and love men more, and delight in being loved without being needed”.

If there’s a lesson in life I will have to learn repeatedly before it finds its way into my heart, it’s the truth that we are loved, more intensely than any love we’ve ever humanly experienced, having done nothing to actually deserve it. God’s love for us is utterly unconditional. His love is not dependent on what you do or fail to do, the comfort you may bring to a friend or the diligence of your day to day work, nor the encouragement you muster for those under your care. Parental love is the closest thing I’ve experienced that mirrors this sort of devotion - my parents would move heaven and earth for me, not because they need me or anything I have to offer them, but just because I am their child.

So, in this time where loving others seems so effortless, I am doing my best to remind myself that ultimately the love I pour out to others should originate not from my being needed or wanted, but from the love God has given and Christ has shown. This love is one I receive with two open, but very much empty hands. Only from this position am I capable of truly, fully, and sustainably loving those in my life and Christ himself, without any constraint from man.