Last month, I went to Villanova’s NCAA Final Four game in Houston. I had a student section ticket and sat with a group of friends behind the band. It was incredible. The students I sat with take Nova basketball seriously and every point mattered. When we scored they went nuts and when we missed they took some deep breaths and locked their jaws and kept on cheering for the ‘cats.

At halftime I went up to sit by my boyfriend who had bought plane tickets to come with me and a regular section ticket because he isn’t a Villanova student. We were sitting and chatting with the Villanova fans around us and they were asking me about the student section and what the energy was like.

“Of course it is unreal” I said, “it’s exhausting too” and I laughed “but definitely worth it.”

Once the game started again they turned to me and asked when I was going back. I explained that I was spending the second half up with my boyfriend to which they said, are you serious? And my boyfriend jokingly said “true love.” The guy closest to us looked at us and very genuinely said, “wow, good for you guys.”

This man next to us didn’t actually admire that I left the student section. He admired a love that was willing to sacrifice for the good of the other. He admired a love that was authentic and joyful in that sacrifice. He admired a love modeled after the greatest Love the world has ever known.

And if only he knew that Love was being offered to him every second.

What Is Love?

We live in a world filled with things we “love.” I love chocolate and coffee. I love the smell right before it snows. I love my mom. I also love tacos. Love is a tricky thing.

Most often in our world love looks like what feels good or what works best for me. Relationships last until we don’t “feel” them anymore. We see people using others for convenience or to avoid loneliness. We even hear of marriages that last less than two years, as if it’s a starter or tester marriage.

This is absurd. This is a love that takes and never gives. This is a love of the world. This is not what we are called to.

We are called to glorious, messy, difficult, sacrificial love and it’s beautiful and tough. Sacrificial love constantly says “what can I do for the good of the other?” not, “what can I get from this?” Sacrificial love says I will do the dishes because my mom has been really stressed and that would take something off her plate. Sacrificial love says I will wait to have sex because I respect my boyfriend or girlfriend as a person and do not want to treat them like an object to be used. Sacrificial love says quality time together is more important than student section seats to a basketball game.

Sacrificial love is hard because it doesn’t give you immediate rewards. There isn’t the same instant gratification that comes with doing something that feels good in the moment. It didn’t exactly feel rewarding to walk away from my fellow seniors watching our team one last time but watching my boyfriend enjoy the game made it a really special shared experience that we will always remember.

To live authentic sacrificial love it must be done from a genuine place of love and not duty
. When we live from a place of duty we resent the things we do for others and sacrifice becomes a chore. When we live from a place of love, sacrifice allows us to bring love to others and brings us joy in knowing that we served others with the love of God.

I wasn’t going to the nosebleeds because I had to, I went up to sit with my boyfriend because I love him, and I wanted to enjoy the game with him and in the process we were able to witness God’s love to others. That’s the beauty of sacrificial love. Even in things as random as basketball games, God can and wants to work conversion in our hearts and the hearts of those around us. He always wants us to see and know His love.

God Doesn’t Give Up On Us

If my fellow Villanova fan hadn’t seen sacrificial love, he wouldn’t have thought about it at the final four. God is present always and He is always pursuing us. He is relentlessly loving us. But instead of looking towards Him we look at our phones or at Instagram or our friends or Netflix or snapchat.

We look at earthly things that tell us love is about getting what you want or what feels good. We look at others and want to be them or be like them instead of looking at God and letting Him call us by our name, “beloved.” We must let Him love us before we can show that love to others.

I pray that you and I may allow our eyes to be opened to all the ways God is revealing himself to us today and tomorrow and the next day and the rest of our lives. He never stops. He never gives up. He never walks away. It doesn’t matter how long we take to recognize Him, He will always show up with open arms, ready to walk with us in peace, and offer us true love so our hearts may overflow and spread that love to everyone we encounter.

About the Author

Sarah McMahon

My life radically changed after a retreat in high school and God keeps surprising me every day. I am a youth minister in Illinois and I’ve only met one kind of candy I don’t like. I hate flying but I love new adventures so if you invent teleportation let me know @sarah_mcmahon6.

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