Does Love = Sacrifice?

May. 14, 2013 • Posted in Afloat

This year, my husband and I missed our anniversary. We didn’t forget the date, and we had plans, but life happened and we had to postpone. We’re hoping to celebrate belatedly sometime this summer.

Back in my March newsletter I alluded to the fact that my husband and I have recently survived the roughest spot of our eighteen-year married life. We marked number seventeen with a quiet dinner for two—two strangers halfheartedly trying to figure out a separation and wondering how we got to that point.  Over the next ten months we traveled well down the road toward divorce before we were able to face the truth of what had gone wrong and what was required to right it.

The trip back might take as long as the trip out. But at least we’re headed in the right direction now.

In April our pastor gave a sermon about marriage. “The purpose of marriage isn’t to make us happy,” he said, “but to teach us how to be holy.” Selfless, patient, longsuffering. Pure in love. The way Jehovah loves Israel; the way Hosea loved Gomer; the way Christ loves the world.

In other words, there sure is a lot of suffering involved in loving another person.

“Loving any human being always involves a little bit of dying.” Ranier says to Vance in Afloat. At the time I wrote that line I was facing the truth of it and thinking that maybe I didn’t want to “die.” I wanted out of this love business. Not just marital love, but all kinds of love: loving friends, loving family, loving neighbors. And loving a complete stranger? Forget it. Some days it’s just so hard. Because true love isn’t about what I want, it’s about what someone else needs. And on many days it feels like I have nothing left to give.

Indecision wrestled within Vance. He wanted to stay in this perfect place, find his father and Zeke and all the other amazements he was so sure it contained. But he didn’t want to leave Danielle and Simeon to Tony’s whims. And he didn’t want to die again.

God gets this. Christ didn’t want to die either. But he did. For us. Even those of us who don’t love him back. Since the dawn of time he’s loved people whether or not they reciprocate—and even when he thought he couldn’t go through with it: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering] pass from me.”

Which makes the notion that “I have nothing left to give” just plain ridiculous. I can never be empty of love because the love of Christ is bottomless and borderless, and it’s for me. It’s for you. Not so we can hoard it, soak in it until we wrinkle, but so we can spread it around. Share the love. Really.

“Loving any human being always involves a little bit of dying,” Ranier says. “I hear it gets easier every time.”

Today, I’m going to test that idea and see if it’s true. I’ve got a hunch that it is.

What makes it hard or easy for you to love a fellow human?

Photo credit: Ed YourdonFoter.comCC BY-NC-SA



  • Erin,
    Happy that you and your husband are on the way back,praying many Blessings for you guys!
    I find it hard to love people who have wronged you and cause you not to trust. The person who you only tried to help and they throw it away. But I guess if they get something from it someday then that is good, but it is hard!
    I know with family it is so important to remember that all show love in different ways, and we need to celebrate the differences that make us strong!
    Really enjoy all your books! Can’t wait to read Afloat!

  • erin says:

    Great observations, Annette. Loving well takes a kind of supernatural strength most of us humans don’t easily come by. I really like your observation that people give and receive love in different ways.

  • Ian says:


    Thanks again for making yourself so vulnerable in writing this post. That’s another kind of “dying” in some sense. Sharing something so personal both opens our heart but also opens hearts of others allowing 2 hearts to give & receive, if you get my meaning.

    Powerful reminder of less of me and more of Christ. To get the latter we gotta give up the former. But gee so hard. Thank goodness we have the Spirit to help us.

    I’m struck by not only God’s faithfulness to you, your hubby and your marriage but also you and your man’s faithfulness to each other.

    Praying for you both and your littlies as you travel this road.


  • erin says:

    I do get your meaning, Ian. What a profound idea–that hadn’t occurred to me in quite that way before. Yes, thank goodness for the Spirit’s mercies, new every morning! Treasuring your prayers.

  • Being “in love” is the most commonly used phrase to describe the feeling of “chemistry”. People who are “in love” have obsessive thoughts about their partners – huge highs when things are good, deep lows when things are bad. People “in love” say things like, “you just know when it’s right”, and believe that they found their true soulmates.

  • erin says:

    I agree with your observations, and although this “being in love” is a part of what I mean when I talk about loving someone else, I ask the question (does love = sacrifice) with a broader intent. Can we love any human being in any capacity without laying down some part of the self? I just wonder.

  • Some people say “I can only give to someone I love.” This is incorrect. The Hebrew word for “give,” hav, is the same root as ahava, meaning “love.” The Jewish idea is that giving is what leads to love. When I give to you, I have invested a part of myself. You then become more precious to me and I love you.

  • erin says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Marcel. It’s a fascinating and beautiful revelation.

  • Unconditional Love Triumphs Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Unconditional love has to be patient and should be willing to wait, even if it means forever. “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love,” said Mother Teresa.

  • erin says:

    Good words. Thanks, Lesa.

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