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!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Broken and Beautiful

I've been contemplating lately, the gift of presence and the gift of compassion and the beauty of being broken and vulnerable. Now, if you know me, you probably know I am typically not comfortable with my own vulnerability or brokenness...for a long time, I've associated those two words with weakness, but recently, my mind has begun to change on that topic. I link a lot of my change of heart to this amazing interaction I had with a very good friend of mine. (Let me just say that I don't know if she knows how good of a friend I consider her, but I do love her very, very much.) Anyway, we were discussing our pasts, the pains and the sorrows, the horribly painful events that had been experienced. The painful memories she shared with me touched me so deeply. Her testimony is so powerful. She was dealt a terrible hand, but God was faithful and stayed near and brought her through. She has been broken, but she is so beautiful. Her faith was shaken, but her faith is so beautiful. She is so strong, now. She is so lovely and so incredible. I was admiring the beauty in her brokenness...and listening to her speak of God's presence in all of it. One sentence she said struck me at my very core: "I believe Jesus wept with me that day on the boat." If you know much about me, you probably know that I hate that I cry as much as I do. I find my tears embarrassing. I hate how vulnerable they make me. I hate that they make me feel so broken and weak. But as I thought about that sentence, I remembered that verse "Jesus wept." She wasn't ridiculous in talking about Jesus's tears. Jesus wept. He wept, and it didn't mean that He was weak or ridiculous. It meant that He loved us and had compassion. He was a bleeding heart. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense, and the more I could relate...the more it revealed to me about myself. As I lay there in the dark in my friend's room, I cried. I waited 'til I knew she was asleep, and then I softly cried in my sleeping bag...because I love her so much. That's when I realized that my crying doesn't make me weak and ridiculous. I cry because my heart breaks for people and my heart swells with love for people. I cry because I care. I can remember so many times when I cried for my bff Alli as she played her marimba. In those moments, I was struck with how beautiful and talented she was. I was so proud of her and so filled with love, that I would cry in the back of the audience. I can remember so many times when I cried for my little sister as she ran at a track meet. She'd hit the backstretch, and tears would run down my cheeks because I was so proud of her and loved her so much. She is so beautiful, especially when she runs. I would marvel at how God created her...He created her beautifully and to do so much good...and He created her to be fast, and to see her run, would bring me to tears. On the other hand, I have wept many a time on my friend's behalf, or alongside them. I can remember a number of occasions when I was listening to my friend tell me about his/her life, experiences, concerns, whatever and crying along with them. It broke my heart to see them hurting like that. It broke my heart to see their pain, and I all I could do was cry with them. There are other times, when I've read e-mails or reflected on conversations with friends, and wept. I would think on what they were experiencing, the pain in their lives, and I would want so badly to give them a huge hug or make it all better, but I can't...all I can do is cry. I used to think that was ridiculously futile, useless, but what my friend said about Jesus weeping with her, made me realize that it had merit and value...that my tears were not in vain. Maybe the emotions that leak out of my face, maybe the feelings themselves say something about me...maybe they are something I have to offer. I have been told my bleeding heart was useless and would get in the way of helping others. My (ex) boyfriend said I couldn't handle nursing because I would be too sensitive. For the longest time, what he said had me really concerned about my ability to care for others, to help others. Every clinical day I made it through seemed like a I was slowly proving him wrong. Recently, though, I realized how ridiculous his words were. He told me I was too caring to be a nurse?!? Really?!? Isn't it incredible how lies can lead you to think that the things that make you lovely are the things that make you broken and weak? It is to me. I find it incredible that we can be so hurt by the lies about our own beauty. I mean, all the times we have trusted and it has ended up only hurting us, the times we've put ourselves out there only to be tells us we have nothing to offer, that we are too weak and vulnerable, but to be vulnerable and broken because of the love we have for our Lord and for others...that's what it is to be's bold to be's bold to be's bold to allow yourself to be vulnerable. That's why my friend has blown me away the past couple weeks. I don't know if I have the guts to be vulnerable like she is, to write the letter she wrote. Her beauty leaves me in awe and has got me thinking about what it is that makes me lovely...what a blessing...