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There’s this great scene in Lark Rise to Candleford (season 2, episode 12). Mrs. Timmins is talking to a tertiary character, “Nan”, who has just told Mrs. Timmins that she is walking away from kind, gentle, hard-working Alf Arless because she rather likes “bad boys.”  Mrs. Timmin’s reply made Nan (and me!) cry.

What if I were to tell you you deserved a good, loving man? That you were worthy of him–no matter what you might think of yourself. The truth is, girl, for some folk it is so much harder to accept love than it is to give it. But you can try? See! Let yourself be loved.

While I think most girls blessed to grow up with good fathers and brothers don’t go looking for “bad” boys, nevertheless media does play upon our perceptions of romance. Romance is not Tangled’s Flynn’s devil-may-care attitude, which never for once (until quite “magically” at the end) takes Rapunzel’s good into account. It is not Twilight’s physical-fixation and Somethingness out of Nothingness. Love isn’t stolen kisses or haunted souls. Love is, very simply, a verb. [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]

Love is seeking someone’s highest Good at all times, even if that Good isn’t you.

The thing is, I think this sort of “bad-boy” relationship is attractive because it demands very little of us. Because it is one thing to love–to set one’s affection upon something, to give and ask nothing back. In that there is a certain level of self-sacrifice, but also a certain amount of self-respect. There is dignity in giving, a freedom to change one’s mind.

It is far more difficult to accept love–to accept love even when unworthy of it. Because as soon as we accept love, we become ever so much more deeply bonded with the giver. You are being given something freely, and freely-given Love demands a response. You can’t just take love, you are suddenly required to give back. You can’t keep slapping away a hand or heart held out–you can accept and return it, or walk away.

The thing is in normal, every-day human relationships, what is offered in love one day can turn in an instant to cold, heartless, cruelty and rejection. We’ve all experienced this on lesser or greater scales. And by this we learn that love is very changeable. Love is dangerous. Love is inherent suffering.

Pastor Tim Keller once said that the hardest thing for the believer in Christ is not to trust in God’s existence, or even His sacrifice on the cross, it is to believe in His love for us. Because what is so peerlessly wonderful in the Love of Christ is that he has set his Love on you, me–for no reason lying within us. He sought your good even unto death. He holds out this Love, by his crucifixion as payment for our sin, in complete vulnerability, our every sin a continual rejection of That Ultimate Love. So,

we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. -Timothy Keller

Despite everything, He continues to hold Love out–a perfect and complete relationship, a full Knowing, a Never-changing, ever-Forgiving, ever True. This is a kind of love that can never fully be met in fallen human beings. It is a love we long for, but can only truly be found in God.

But it is a Love that demands a response. He says, “Come, and find rest for your weak and weary souls.”

We can walk away.

Or we can let ourselves be loved. And in loving… and suffering… our hearts will overflow.