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The Metaphor of Love

Recently, over Christmas break, I read the book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. In this book, Miller wrote two chapters on love. There was a section that I want to share with you now because to me, the way he described how we often view (and use) love hit the nail on the head. On top of that, what made it even more real for me was the fact that I had been spending the break with my family. This is where (for the most part) we all tend to not only expect more love but feel the freest to be ourselves. Therefore, with walls down, I was able to experience and observe what Miller was talking about in his book.

The Power of a Metaphor

Obviously, we know what metaphors are, comparisons between things without using the words like or as (because that would be a simile.) However, I don’t think many of us realize the impact that they have when being applied to an aspect of life. Miller shows us an effective way how powerful metaphors can be.
He actually learned this by listening to a lecture given by a Communications professor. The speaker challenged them to come up with words that people often times use to describe cancer. What was revealed is that usually when we address that sickness with or about someone who has it, words like “fight” or “battle” are used. Therefore, the professor showed that the metaphor used is war. So when a person is diagnosed with cancer, they automatically get bombarded with the misconception that they are having to face this disease as if they are literally having to go to war. There are obviously some cases that are more serious than others, but for the most part, people survive cancer. The impact that this can have is that it places a fear in the heart of the recipient that isn’t necessarily accurate. The biggest thing I want us to see here is that perceptions can be changed through metaphor.

Love as a Metaphor

Okay, so now that we can see and understand the weight that metaphors bring to the table, let’s try to wrap our heads around the metaphor that has been paired with love, namely loving other people. First, here are the words that Miller says are often coupled with loving those around us: I “value” that person, this relationship is “priceless”, we “invest” in people, so on and so forth. That being said, this is the conclusion that was presented…the metaphor we use in our everyday lives with love is an economic one. We treat love like it is a commodity. Meaning it’s all about giving and withholding depending on the circumstances. There is so much danger in that, but we need to see that this is the way that we often times operate. Our love becomes conditional as we withhold it to those who we don’t think are deserving of our love or we use it in a manipulating sort of way to get what we want.
I believe this happens all the time without people realizing it. However, that doesn’t keep us from feeling the impact of it. Honestly, as I have pondered this, it is heartbreaking to realize how destructive we are to ourselves and those around us. (Side note..there are a couple of people that come to mind who are REALLY GOOD at coming up with real-life illustrations that fit perfectly with what they are trying to convey in all of about two seconds…I’m still working on that skill.) Personally for me, I tend to work at gaining love back when I think I’ve lost it, especially when the relationship is very important to me. That’s because of this mindset love is something that we can lose if we don’t deserve it. But is this really love in it’s truest sense?

A Better Way

Let’s take a look now at what the Word has to say. I hope that this revelation frees you from being a slave to manipulation and conditional love because the love of God is a beautiful thing and we are called to walk in it. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Did you or anyone deserve God’s love? Christ went to the cross and suffered the wrath of God so that we could know what love is. (1 John 3:16) Here’s the deal…LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE. Let your love be a free gift, given with an open hand and expecting nothing in return. Allow God to transform your heart by finding your acceptance in him alone. Rest in the fact that God has never once withheld his love from you because you didn’t live up to his expectations for you. His love is greater than you could ever imagine. Perfect love is selfless and sacrificial, and it will always point to Jesus.
We bring in a lot of baggage with the way that we have been trained to always question the security of the love we receive; however, this can be a real life changer. Stop withholding love. Stop questioning the reliability of the love that’s been extended to you by someone else. Let Christ be your first love and love others freely.


-Britney O’Hara

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