Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Love and Be Loved

I'm aware that my feelings of unimportance are not unique to me. I read a bumper sticker (on facebook) recently that said, "We accept the love we think we deserve." This got me thinking. It's partially true. I mean, for me, and I would assume others as well, we are often much more willing to show love to others than accept love from others. Why? Because we don't think we deserve it...we don't think they could truly love us...because we believe ourselves to be unwanted. I have found myself contented identifying with Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three". In the chorus, it says, "I want you. I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever going to love you. Now don't be sad 'cause 2 out of 3 ain't bad." There are days when I find myself seeking to feel wanted and needed because I doubt that I could possibly be loved. I believe that it should be enough to feel useful or desired. I think there are a lot of us that feel eager to feel wanted. I know that because I believe myself to be unloveable, I have sold myself short time and time again. I've allowed myself to be used, mistaking feeling useful for feeling loved. I've put myself in compromising positions (to put it delicately) because I believed that feeling desired was what it meant to feel loved. I had some wrong ideas about what love was...I still do...and the thing of it is, that that bumper sticker was talking to me. I struggle in accepting love because I don't deserve it...I know that. Wanna creep me out? Show genuine concern for my well-being, show that you care and love me for me the jibblies just thinking about it. :P JK...kind of...seriously, though, it's pretty true. I totally get that I could offer someone something they need. I know I could offer them something I want. I could make myself into something wanted or needed...but I can't make someone love me. That's a choice they make based on criteria only they know...and true love, can't be earned because none of us really deserve it.

I don't remember where I heard it...maybe it was the preacher man that speaks at the beginning of the song "Shepherd is the Lamb" by the O.C. Supertones...maybe it was some random person on the street, but I recall being told that God created us to love and to be loved. That has caused me to wonder: am I only living up to half of my potential, half of the expectations, if I seek to love others but refuse to accept the love offered to me? I mean, because it's not just the love of my good friends that I often reject and often is the love of God as well. I mean, the love of God is true love, perfect love...I don't deserve it...I am fallen and imperfect and sinful...but love isn't true love if it's earned because true love is unconditional. In Romans, Paul writes "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It wasn't that we achieved some level of perfection and then God rewarded us with salvation or love...He loved us and saved us while we were still sucking it up...and of course, because God is relational and we are human, this relates to our everyday lives. We keep sinning and turning away, but God keeps loving us and pursuing us. I think my head just has a hard time believing that, a hard time getting there. It gets stuck thinking like the psalmist in Psalm 8 "what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" I mean, why would God love me? Why would He save me? Why would He care? Why doesn't He give up? (Yes, I do ask many of the same questions about my friends...for the record). Will He give up?

It seems ridiculous...for me to believe that God loves everyone unconditionally, but to be unable to apply it to myself...but I try to...Mother Teresa once made a comment about how Jesus said to love others as He has loved us and how that means that in order to truly love others we must first accept God's love for us. Now THAT I find convicting. I mean, I can't really be in relationship with other people unless I allow that love to go both ways. If I can't allow them to love me, then I'm essentially cutting them out of the relationship. I'm making the relationship one-sided and about me -- what I have to offer them, the love I have for them...I'm rejecting the gift of their love and friendship. (Now THAT is humbling.) But I do it all the time. You can see it in the way I approach meeting new people. If I'm going into a situation where the expectation is that I will mingle with these people for an hour and probably never see them again, I can be a social butterfly. If I'm going into a room of people that I will see over and over again, potential friends, I freak! I get crazy anxious and rely heavily upon my headphones to keep them at arm's length. Why? Because I hate people? No. It's actually a twisted expression of how much I care about people. I love people, and in that latter situation, I'm just afraid they won't love me back. I generally assume it will only go one way. So, I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I will love them and invest in them, but they won't love me back...I'll be left hanging. I'm afraid I'll get what I deserve as a sinful human being...I forget that I am also a child of God and therefore eternally loved. How merciful God is!

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