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Love and Freedom in relationships with God and others
This morning, I came across the following posting of Dr. John Townsend (clinical psychologist and co-author of Boundaries, etc.), on http://www.pastors.com/blogs/ministrytoolbox/archive/2009/12/02/we-are-free-to-be-unloving.aspx. (See the full article via this link)
'We are free to be unloving
By Dr. John Townsend
God has constructed love and relationships with a requirement, and that is freedom. Freedom is the price tag of love. Freedom exists in the service of love, for love cant be forced. It cant be controlled. It cant be coerced. It cant be intimidated or threatened. It is impossible to should love. That is an oxymoron.
Basically, when we feel we have to love someone, we have erased the possibility of love. We can only love God and anyone for that matter when we have a choice and are completely free to walk, free to say Im out of this relationship, free to put God out of our minds and our lives. That is not a pleasant thought, but there is a law of relationships here. Simply stated, it is this: we are not free to love unless we are free not to love. If you dont have a choice, you cannot freely move toward God or any person, for that matter.
The Bible never says you have to follow God, because you dont. He wants a free choice or none at all. He wants you to choose, or not choose, him: But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve  (Joshua 24:15 NLT).
It is a little astounding when you think about it. God gives up all the control he could use and puts himself in an extremely humble and vulnerable position. He asks us to love him and follow him. And he waits for us to make up our minds. He certainly has the power and wherewithal to force the issue. He could reach inside your heart and tweak it so that you dont have a choice to turn from him. But he doesnt do that because he wants to be pursued. He will give back many times more than he will ever receive from us, but he wants to be wanted.'
I can really resonate with the need to be loved, don't you? It is so easy to turn that need into a 'demand' to be loved, without even realizing it. And taking away someone's freedom - takes away from the quality of the love that we do receive. I'm reminded of the boundary-key: 'If someone can't say 'no' to you, their 'yes' doesn't mean anything' (from one of Dr. Cloud & Townsend's books).
Taking it one step further brings me to our own responsibility for our emotions, thoughts and actions. I can also get so self-righteously upset and withdraw from relationships because of being offended, waiting to be apologised to... But in that action I've set the other person up in a place of authority over me and myself as the victim who has to receive something. Spiritually... idolatry - I'm choosing them as authority over how I will choose to behave or respond.
The truth is that I felt wounded and hurt - and chose to deal with it in an unhealthy manner. I can choose what I think or how I think about someone or something, which will influence my emotions and actions. At the same time, if I don't deal with the painful emotions (tracing the roots, feeling it, understanding it, and dealing with it through prayer / forgiveness / counselling - depending on what I'm delaing with), will-power in making good choices, may not always be enough.
These are just a few thoughts from one angle, on the complex nature of relationships.
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