I am so not comfortable with those "three little words, eight little letters." (I love you.) It's ironic, really. Because I love to say them...I love to let my friends know that I love them...'cause I do...but hearing them...I'm not so good about. I'm totally comfortable...well, not totally...pretty comfortable with "I like you". More than that? Not so much. Worst part is, is that's my deal...my problem. But the good thing is, it's something I want to deal with...I want to address...I want to be rid of.
I feel challenged when I read stuff by Mother Teresa. I know I say that a lot...but somehow the things she writes make sense to me. I understand. I was reading some of her memoirs tonight. She wrote about not feeling cared for by God but at the same time knowing that she was a "child of His love". She talked about how she knew the truth because He sustained her...how she couldn't weather these storms without Him and that she couldn't desire Him or desire His love if His love was not in her. In another place, she wrote, "God has created us to love and to be loved, and this is the beginning of prayer -- to know that He loves me, that I have been created for greater things." "God told us, 'love your neighbor as yourself.' So, first I am to love myself rightly, and then to love my neighbor like that. But how can I love myself unless I accept myself as God has made me?"
If you know me much, you can understand the challenge I would feel upon reading that. I understand being created to love...but man, do I ever struggle with the "to be loved" part. I wouldn't even understand it if she didn't go on, I think. To know that God loves me...how badly I want that...and I know she's right. My prayer life would be so changed if I could approach God knowing He loves me...and knowing He wishes to use me to love others...that I was created to love others. That next quote about accepting myself as God has made me so that I can love myself rightly so that I can properly love my neighbor...talk about conviction! That is a huge struggle for me! I'm so often trapped under shame and uncertainty...feelings of inadequacy and rejection...fear of abandonment. I so often believe myself to be a burden on everyone around me, including God. I believe myself to be tolerated at best...or loved out of obligation...or temporarily...Those things are always in the back of my mind, and every so often, they grip me. That's what's been going on lately. I've been gripped by fear and shame and uncertainty...worries of inadequacy and been convinced that I don't matter...that I'm not loved. As a result, I isolate myself...which makes things worse for me, but also keeps me from really loving anyone...because I try to cut myself off...I try hard at it.
When I read what Mother Teresa wrote about knowing she was a child of God's love...somewhere near there she wrote about being uncertain of God's presence and love, except when she was with the poor...she saw Him there, met Him there, knew His love there. I could relate to that. I know God loves other people. When I'm serving as a nurse or hanging out with kids or whatever...I know God loves those people -- my patients or kids or whomever I'm with. The youth I talk to online. I know God loves them. I know He wants great things for them and wants them to know His love and know that they're cared for. The kids in youth group. I know He wants them to be loved and cared for and have opportunities to know that and act on that. I know He loves them SOOO much! I know He cares about my patients. I know He wants healing for everyone and that He loves everyone and wants them to know that. I know that so well...and thus the tears begin to flow. But I have such a hard time knowing it for myself. I can infer that He loves me and wants me to know Him and to know His love and His care. I can infer that He wants me to have opportunities to know Him and show my love for Him. I know it because it's true for everyone else...but I don't REALLY know it. I doubt it so much. Or, in my head, I hear that He loves me "because He has to" or He "tolerates me" or He "loves me in some religious way"...whatever that means. When I hear the words "I love you" from a person or from God. I'm full of doubt and uncertainty...I don't know what it means. Does it mean, "You did something that made me happy"? Does it mean "I need you to do this thing"? Does it mean "You'll do"? Does it mean "I love you because you..."? Is there a limiting statement that's implied? "I love you if...."? "I love you when..."? "I love you, for now...or for this long."? That's how I've always understood it. I am loved when I do something right. I am loved when I provide something of value. I am loved when I meet a need. I am loved when I don't cause too much trouble. I am loved for a time...but this too shall pass. I've not put much stock in "love". And yes, I've generally believed that about love from people and love from God.
But at the same time, I want to know God's love...for real. And that very fact tells me I can "comprehend with all the saints", though it "passes all understanding". Because I must be in His love...He must love me...or else I couldn't love anyone else. I wouldn't be able to work in the nursing home or hang out with kids or provide care to anyone...if I didn't have God's love in my life...But I still don't KNOW...I'm still so broken. I still believe myself to be among the "unwanted" and "the lonely" and "the sick"...I am scared to death that someone might care for me...that someone might love me...and I fight against it...try to reject it before I find out it wasn't real...and so I believe all love isn't real or isn't for me. It's hard because I talk to different people and they talk about feeling unloved, unwanted, uncared for...and I know it's not true. I know that God loves them and cares about them and wants them to be healthy and whole and full of joy...and I know that because of that, I love them and care about them...the hard part is while I want so badly to have them understand the love that God has for them...and that I share that love, I can totally understand where they are...'cause I'm there more often than I care to admit. It's hard to hear words I've uttered come from their lips. Because I know that the words God has for them, He has for me, too.
That's why I found it especially challenging to read Mother Teresa's blurb about knowing God's love for us and loving ourselves rightly so that we can love others. I was watching Flags of Our Fathers (which was awesome, by the way) and the story was told of this one man -- a medic -- who was hit by chrapnel in the leg. He continued to triage and treat soldiers in the field, and so the other medics had a hard time finding him to put him on the stretcher. They said that it was brave of him to serve those men, and he saved a lot of them, but he could have died of blood loss, and he could save so many more if he would let himself be taken care of. I can relate to that. I hear tell that I somehow help people from time to time...by listening or praying or being there or whatever...I don't exactly know. But I also understand that God could use me to do more -- to care for and comfort and love more people -- if I would let Him care for and comfort me. He could use me to heal more people and to love more people if I let Him heal and love me. If I were secure in His love...if I were whole in Him...if I were able to accept comfort and care...if I could be strong in Him and His love...how much more could I do? I definitely wouldn't be so easily beat down, right? *sigh*
I need to know. I need to not limit God's love. I need to not imply disclaimers or limiting statements...I need to find healing...I need to know comfort...I need to be secure enough in love that I can ask for help and for comfort and for care without thinking it will jeapordize the love I know...I want to have that love overflowing, rather than piped on through...And so I seek...seek to know...and seek the boldness to pray and to ask...the assurance and faith to know He will and can...the capacity to truly know and to truly love God.