Some people say you only truly love one person in a lifetime. Like, that person is your person. The one. They say that anything before that special one was not really love, only something like it, but I’m not sure I agree. It doesn’t work out that way for everyone. I can think of four men in my almost  years that I have loved. Really loved. To lessen that would cheapen it somehow. To regret it would take away the beauty it held. And even in the pain, I think it can hold a place of value, a place of gratitude as you move forward. I believe that for some people love is like different seasons of life, each a path leading you to what you needed all along.
They say, “to have loved and lost is better to have never loved at all,” but I say, “to have loved and lost, then to find love again… that is the best of all.”
I look back on my past and I can pinpoint four men I have loved, each one in a different way, each one in a different season, each one leading me to where I am today.
First came First Love, aptly named. I can easily remember the first man I ever loved. Through this relationship, I learned that I could love someone more than myself. I learned how to romantically love another. I was able to experience excitement, intrigue, passion, the butterflies.
Through First Love, I discovered how to give of myself, a very noble characteristic. But I also learned when to stop. I learned how to stand up for myself, despite being in love.
Then I learned heartbreak. I learned that love hurts. I realized that men have faults, that love isn’t perfect. How could I realistically love in the present without my past lessons, my first foray of love learned, built, broken, and healed?
First Love taught me how to love, and how to let go of love when that’s what I need to do. I’ll never forget this kind of love.
Second, for me, came True Love. Wow. True Love blows you off your feet, doesn’t it? This was the man who showed me a deeper love than I had ever known. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I discovered this love at the same time I discovered the love of God. I just don’t think that was an accident.
Childhood rejection and a hundred other things in this world had shown me love didn’t work. That it couldn’t work. My parents were in love. So I wanted to believe it was real. But when I found it, that was when I really believed it in my heart.
True Love changed me. True Love mimicked God’s Love, and though nothing can compare to that, True Love gave me the best example I had ever known. The thing was that it came easy. We didn’t have to try for it. It just happened, like breathing.
True Love was the easiest love I had ever known. It taught me that love is what we’re meant for in this life.
In retrospect, I know that my first brush with True Love was overpowering. I’m not sure I knew how to process that in a healthy way.
But then it wasn’t. True Love slipped away from me. I suppose that happens to us sometimes.
I was broken. My heart was in a million pieces. I felt like there was no love for me beyond that I had found. If it wasn’t my True Love, I didn’t want it. I was dumbfounded, I was numb, I was hurt, and then I just wasn’t anything. I walked around in a haze, unfeeling, afraid, unsure. How could love hurt? How could something written in the stars and meant to be slide through my fingers like sand? Did it never have substance to start with?
My third love came out of nowhere. I wasn’t looking for him. I didn’t want him. He came in from stage left, and he slid in so easily and naturally that my heart opened to him unaware. He was a soothing balm for my broken heart. He was my Healing Love. Healing Love showed me that I could love again, that I could move past heartbreak, that it was okay to be brave and be loved again. Healing Love was like a second chance to feel, another opportunity to open myself up to another, to experience love instead of run from it.
This love taught me to trust despite past hurt.
I had Healing Love for a season, then I pushed it away. I hurt the one who helped me. We do that, don’t we?
After a time, a time of reckless roving, I found love a fourth time. I call this one Consuming Love. It was consuming. It came on strong, hard, and fast. It caused my head to spin, my heart to beat ninety to nothing, my life to change. Consuming Love made me fearless! I desired it beyond anything else! I made decision[s], big life decisions, based on this love. I followed this love wherever it wanted to take me. I wasn’t coerced or pulled against my will, mind you. I wanted it. I wanted it fiercely. I surrendered myself to this all Consuming Love. You know, I don’t think we’re supposed to do that.
I don’t hold him at fault. I don’t hate him. He didn’t make me do it. I think too many times, especially [nowadays], we blame the other person, as if they changed you, as if you had no say in the matter. And while, yes, Consuming Love is powerful, sometimes changing us without us ever realizing it, I believe we let go. It’s like we’re out on the ocean, in a storm, holding on to faith and who we are meant to be like a life-saving buoy. At some point, we let go of who God has us to be. It’s too hard to fight the current, so we let go and the waves take us away. We become someone we don’t even recognize, but should never forget it starts with the decision to let go and let the wind take you where it will.
Consuming Love made me let go of myself. I absorbed the other person, becoming what I thought he wanted. Again, not his fault. I let go.
Even in the years of losing myself, bobbing along like this was what happiness was, I’m thankful for Consuming Love. It taught me how easily I can depend on man to make me feel worthwhile. It showed me that searching for my worth based on how another person loves me will never bear fruit in the end. I realized I must always stay true to what God has for me.
That is love. It never makes you become something you are not. It simply motivates you to grow in what you were always meant to be.
And it was upon my initial breaths of fresh air, pulling myself out of the waves and grabbing my buoy that I found it again.
It came back to me. Oh my goodness, the old adage was true. I had let True Love go, and God brought it back. Did I let it go gracefully? Lord knows I didn’t. I let it go kicking and screaming. I let it go reluctantly, with a grudge, running off in the wrong direction, letting my feelings guide me. I let go of True Love, but also my true self. It took about  years and ten hundred failed and futile, passing relationships to teach me how to love like it truly deserved to be done. Was it a painful process to find True Love once and for all? Very. But I know it happened the way it needed to happen. I made bad decisions, I learned from them, and God worked it all for my good. He does that, you know?
When I found my True Love a second time (the same man, for those of you who don’t know my personal love story), one thing had not changed. It was still easy. Loving him was so easy. Natural. Inhale. Exhale. Meant to be.
Does that mean it came painlessly? No. I came with baggage, and so did he. It was hard at the beginning. I had to take everything that God has shown me through life, and everything that the love of Jesus was proving to be false in that time, and I had to marry it with True Love. I don’t guess it would have worked if we didn’t do that. We couldn’t just learn from our past; we had to learn from God’s Word. We had to realize that our True Love didn’t make our marriage work. It was the True Love of Christ that bound us so perfectly together. That is what had been missing the first time around.
Some people say you only love one person in a lifetime. For me, that’s just not the case. I had to learn to love. I had it inside me all along. I was made to love. I just had to learn how to do it the right way. It took a few tries, and I don’t count them all as failures. I see them as seasons of growth, seasons to fall, seasons to bring me to where I am today.
To all the men I’ve loved before,
I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me, for helping me reach the place I am right at this very moment. For that, I am grateful.