Because we are meant for such a glorious and weighty love, we are all set up for a fall: disappointment, heartache, and rejection.

It’s a setup because there is an adversary, a great villain in our story, who is hell-bent on making sure we do not know and experience unconditional love. Our stories are full of people, other image-bearers who love imperfectly and conditionally.

There are dark forces in every man’s story that make sure he feels, hears, and experiences: “You are alone. Trust no one. Arrange for life and love (validation, acceptance, worth) for yourself.”

The conditional-love moments in a man’s life result in his believing: “If I could do more of this or less of that, be this or be that, then people would love me.”

Strategies form and harden in our inmost being and become the “system” a man both runs and is subject to. Repeatedly, that system attempts to create or manipulate ways in which a man can provide love for himself. The ol’ “If it is to be, it is up to me” way of life lodges deep in the heart and clouds over every opportunity to arrange for love, tipping the vote of acceptance and worth his way arrange.

As a boy I learned to perform in order to obtain love; validation, acceptance, and worth and to create distance in order to protect myself from the pain of not experiencing the love I was made for (we all were made for). This elaborate and pervasive “system” grows with the boy and takes its full, wretched effect years later when the boy becomes a man. Dark forces use this internal, conditional system, along with the opinions and words of others, to reinforce their lies- Life IS up to me. Conditional love and the enemy align, setting the man up for a fall.

It is not if we are disappointed or become a disappointment but when.

Someone doesn’t make us happy or we find it impossible to keep another happy—what then? Taking matters of love and life into his own hands is guaranteed to promote and perpetuate a man’s false self, which is self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-protecting, and self-promoting.

The false-self life will always obstruct the true man and real Life: Life that is abundant and full is uninhibited by expectations, opinions, and circumstances. Our Father promises another Life to us. He guarantees another Love. When we seek him, he finds us. Then, and only then, does the fall become a setup of a different kind: the setup for redemption … a man’s great and glorious comeback. I am not talking about salvation, which is the first move, or the installation of the needed new equipment—the new heart—which is what a man desperately needs in order to start learning how to Live. I am talking about sanctification… the healing from the inside out; the ability to now see what was in the way of truly seeing and experiencing Life.

When a man turns away from the old false-self construct and its system (of wounds, coping mechanisms, and conditions) and moves intentionally toward the Author of Life for the new Life Jesus has custom-made for him, everything changes again. And again and again and again.

It takes time, a lifetime, but it happens choice by choice. The man makes his comeback and becomes who he truly is, the Beloved Son by rejecting the old system beliefs and receiving the new unconditional love of the Father. Love changes us.

When we experience our true Father loving us, it heals us, restores us, and then sets us loose. But only if we come to him. And the primary reason we don’t is that we don’t trust him. Loving is trusting and trusting is loving.

Each time I turn to the Father in trust, he responds with more training in the new ways of Love and Life, and I am another step closer to becoming the real me and another step further from who I am not.

In your time alone with God:

How does the set-up for disappointment become a set-up for redemption?

What is the “weapon of choice” used most significantly by our adversary in the lives and hearts of men?

How specifically have you felt, experienced, been trained up to know conditional love? When, where…what is the story?

What are the details of your conditional love system? If you can’t see them, hear their influence operating on the inside, then it will be impossible to get free.