I have yet to be in love, but I think I can safely say what it is to be loved.
Often I wonder if that may be the reason I'm still single. When you know what real love is, it's hard to settle for anything less, and so it should be.
When I first began to understand what true love was I was fourteen. I'd had my first sexual experience with a boy who had been pestering me for a year or so. I'd said no several times over but on this particular evening he said all the right things, and surprising even myself, I gave in.
Young, naive fourteen year old me thought sexual intimacy was true intimacy. That the only way to be loved and show love was through baring and sharing yourself physically to and with another person.
Conversely, I felt very alone. The act itself, that physical show we had put on, had in fact changed nothing in reality. Instead of feeling closer to him, I felt we were miles apart, and all I wanted him to do was hold me. This wasn't what being loved was supposed to feel like. Being loved was supposed to make you feel special, intimately known; not a baring of the flesh but a baring of the soul, real, raw intimacy rather than an elaborate ceremony of make-believe.
Real love was romantic.
There was someone I hadn't paid much attention to those fourteen years. He'd always been around, and although I'd seen and heard a lot about him I'd never really taken the time to know him. In the days following he was with me, holding my hand, telling me he didn't think any less of me, that conversely he wanted me to be his more than ever before, so that he could protect me and love me and know me and be loved and known by me in return.
You see whilst I had barely taken notice of him those fourteen years; busy being caught up in my own superficialities, he'd been at work loving me from the very beginning. All this time he'd been putting himself in my way, getting himself talked up by my friends, working tirelessly to make me notice him, and I'd ignored him at every turn. He'd pursued me passionately and relentlessly, never giving up, not caring if in the end all his love was unrequited, and instead had just loved me and loved me and loved me unceasingly; like a parent loves a child.
And now here we were; me at my worst and him the same as he'd always been; waiting patiently, loving and loving and loving me, looking out for me.
And this time, I looked at my situation; my experience of love, how I saw myself, how I felt, and I realised I needed that radical love in my life, I needed him.
He loved me the right way; not doing so because he would gain anything from it but because he couldn't help it. Loving me came as naturally to him as breathing came to me.
So I said yes to loving him. I made a decision that I'd be his as he had always been mine.
Like any other relationship, it requires work, but nine years on we're still together; him loving me in the same relentless, passionate and purposeful way he always did, and me trying to love him right back.
You see when I realised the lengths God had gone to get my attention and to steal my heart, I had no choice but to accept him, no other decision made sense. God was a romantic; paying attention to every detail so that it was just right, chasing me down at every turn, even at the risk of me rejecting Him.
And so maybe my expectations of love are too high, but now that I have experienced, raw, unselfish, devoted, kind, forgiving and generous love, nothing less will ever suffice.