Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Love Grows in Vertical Lines

by Emmarie May M. Bonganciso | February 15, 2022

The yellow light of an afternoon’s sunset slipped through the blinds. I was watering the potted plants that hung from my ceiling, tending to it closely as I listened to lo-fi music. It was a slow afternoon; quiet, solitary, and for a good reason too. I didn’t need any more of the noise that was already in my head. Grabbing a pair of scissors, I cut off some of the vines from my plants just as I had cut off the rest of the world for a good few hours. It was the fourteenth of February. 

That moment in between laying down my head and falling asleep is often when my mind is the loudest. It’s the most dreadful time of my day. I couldn’t afford to give myself more to overthink about in the hours prior to that. Social media only fueled the car with no brakes, speeding across a highway of destruction. He was all I could think about. His voice, his stature, his child-like heart. It was always a conscious effort to pull away from that spiral. Over and over. Our crystallized memories were beautiful yet sharp. They easily cut and slash. Does he have the same scars as mine? Coffee-induced nights often mean cradling a journal in a dead-quiet room. I have always been one to write my thoughts. But these days, they scare me. I’m afraid of being honest with myself and seeing our relationship for how it really was. It’s tough when all you do is silently run away from the truth. 

I don’t know why or how he could so easily have changed his mind. He was today’s sunset, pulling away with the light growing dimmer and dimmer. And for weeks, that was my life: a cold dusk. Was he coming back? Was this it? Was this all an interlude? But I knew I couldn’t possibly stay this way: dreading late nights, filling pages with bad poetry just to try and say the same thing in different ways, feeling sorry for myself, with questions unanswered as I faced a dead end. 

That was three years back. Looking back, I still find myself lost as to how I conquered it. But it isn’t a matter of “how”. It’s a matter of “who”. Who helped me get through it? Every day was simply given over to the Lord. 

Love is Accompanied With Truth

The slap of reality came to me in the form of a rebuke from a dearly loved sister. Sometimes, a wise and loving rebuke is all we need to get us started our way. When a relationship ends, romantic or not, are you one to wallow in self-pity? To growl at the cruel world as you tend to your wounds alone? Has it ever occurred to us that perhaps, the situation is more than a sole injustice against us? It took at least two whole people to form this bond, two minds, two stories. Most times, we read our stories like we have all the pages to the book. But that’s rarely ever the case. We don’t know everything, even when we’ve lived through the experience itself. But the Lord sees all. He sees the other person’s secret thoughts and he most certainly sees yours. It’s a natural response of pride to point the finger. It’s not to say that we have never been hurt or we should never hold others accountable for their actions. But it boils down to being honest with yourself. Our own decisions carry consequences. And to downplay that aspect gives us an inaccurate picture of the whole situation. 

With me, I had to confess my own sin. I took to heart what the writer Elisabeth Elliot always taught when it came to suffering loss and tragedy — offer your broken spirit, your contrite heart to God, and just do the next thing. If there’s anything you have to understand as you learn to love, it’s the reality of just how much you’re only able to control. You’re only able to control how you respond to things. But so much of our life is given over to providence. We are not promised tomorrow nor are we guaranteed that everything will stay the same. And with that, we realize that the only way we can truly handle that is if we receive everything with an open, grateful hand. The Lord gives as He pleases and the Lord takes as He pleases. 

Love is Authored by God 

Things typically operate under a certain design, like a microwave oven or a computer. They’re designed to function in a certain way. If you don’t use it according to how it’s designed, it won’t serve its purpose. The same thing goes with love. Love is not what we make it. It’s divinely authored to be shared by the Creator to the creature. Love naturally brings a sense of fulfillment. As creatures, we also naturally yearn for that. We love because God loved us first. And I’ve learned that before we can truly love anything else, love starts in the vertical (with God) before the horizontal (with others). This means that true love is found primarily in knowing God through His Word. And so, we must start from there. It’s how we learn of the gospel. It’s how we learn how loving and gracious God is towards His people. And when we know how much grace we are given every day despite our depravity, we are more willing to give grace to others as well. 

Do Not Despise Your Season

It is by a well-watered relationship with God that we are able to fully love others. This was one of the many things I overlooked. Deep inside, I always thought that my happiness lies in the “next steps” of my life. “I’ll finally be happy when I marry someone,” or “I’ll finally be happy when I have kids.” My gaze was always on what I thought was the next step. It was only further down the line when I realized that I never thought of today as enough. I was operating on the idea that my present circumstances were always lacking. Does God ever forget or slack off that your day becomes insufficient of His grace? Every season, whether tragic or triumphant, single or married, is a time with an overarching purpose. 

I put down my pen and flexed my hand as it had gone sore after much scribbling. Dusk had already overtaken. I flipped through the pages of my journal, scanning through written prayers, diary entries, and poetry before laying down for bed. This moment in between laying down my head and falling asleep is often when my mind is the loudest. It’s the most dreadful time of my day. But whenever I’m overwhelmed by all the uncertainties, one by one I recount my certainties. And I often start with this: love grows in vertical lines. 


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