This has been a really “interesting” weekend with too many examples of heartache and the woundedness found in our world not to notice.
As I don’t believe in coincidences, & seeing these incidents close together–each one pointing to one of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned, I am all the more certain that “Yes”, I’m supposed to address this topic today in my first real blog post. SO, whether or not writing about Love so close to Valentine’s Day is going to seem Cheesy to you, I’ve decided to go for it, without apology.
LOVE has nothing to do with the candy-flower-red hearts day that so saturates our western culture. Nor is it particularly about romance or marriage– although they can certainly be an aspect of it. See, our world gets this all wrong, and truly, until we learn what Love is, and that we are loved to the very core of our being, JUST AS WE ARE, there is no way we will ever be able to love others the way we are designed to do.
Since the Garden of Eden, God’s greatest gifts have been counterfeited and corrupted to the point we barely recognize them anymore. Think about it: even the word, “Love” has become so overused that it’s meaning has been sadly lost. Surely, “I Love your shoes”, or “I Love ice cream” doesn’t compare with “I Love my wife “! Too many of us never knew the unconditional love of our parents– in my case I grew up with so many mixed messages and a lot of shame about being “different”. This isn’t to condemn my folks, they simply passed along what they had been taught. But tragically, those who have been hurt, go on to hurt others. Five+ years ago I spent over a year in counseling and recovery groups and thankfully have grown and healed a lot in the process. But now I recognize the deep root of rejection wherever I see it, and I ached for my college friend who felt she had to offer some sort of “release from friendship” for any of her friends who so desired, when for the first time (and after 30 years of silence), she came out this weekend.
I had an opportunity to perform for a Valentine’s Dessert Theatre last night and on the way we heard of Whitney Houston’s passing. What a tragedy… It made the message of our evening all the more relevant. No amount of money or fame is beyond the reach of pain and woundedness, and if we cannot get to the root of our pain and see it for the lie that it is (that somehow we’re not enough), disaster will follow. The truth is that God loves every one of us, just as we are. He created us, He delights in us, and He wants nothing more than for us to be in relationship with Him. I have AMAZING stories about how He showed up again and again in tangible ways, years before I ever knew Him- and I can promise, He feels the same way about YOU!!
Another thing that I’m recognizing is that once I did finally receive God’s Love in my truest self / inmost being /soul / spirit / whatever-vocabulary-you- choose, He began the work of expanding my heart towards others. I had closed myself off in many ways for years– preferring not take the risk of further rejection. But can you see how that in itself became a self-fulfilling act? If I wasn’t open, how could others get to know me or like me? This was so surprising when it started… I didn’t just become more empathetic with the women we meet in shelters and prisons, I began to see them through the lens of Love. My whole prayer life changed. In the past year I’ve wept (yeah- me- weeping!!) after the tsunami in Japan, over the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and about the heaviness I felt in Vegas where so many people had no life in their eyes. And it doesn’t stop there! Sometimes frankly, it’s easy to love strangers. This weekend God showed me where I need to love those who have hurt people close to me, and how just maybe, they need my love most of all.
Now I’m not saying I want to be in relationship with all of these people, or that I even need to like them. There are many people who are unsafe, and healthy boundaries dictate caution around other broken people. But unconditional love isn’t always a feeling, it’s a choice-our intentional response to God and others. For those of us who follow Christ, Love is the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) and the foundation for all of the rest. For until we allow God to pour His love into us, we have nothing of value to give the world. For me the bottom line comes from Jesus himself when He said that He didn’t come to judge the world, but to bring life, life to the fullest- and THAT my friends, is what Love is all about.