Tag Archives: accepting love

To Be Loved and To Love God

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                What does God’s love for me feel like?  And, for that matter, what does me loving Him back look like?
I’ve gotten this question a lot recently.  It almost seems to be whispered by the air, filling the minds of many wondering teenagers.
And I totally get it.  I mean, how DOES God, a non-human being (or presence, or whatever un-humanly-fathomable God is) love us humans?  We are incredibly physical beings.  If you buy into the five love languages (gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physicality)…all of those are pretty dependant on this physical world.  How can God, who is outside of time and space, reach into our little three dimensional world and express His love to us through one of the incredibly limited ways we receive love?  I mean, really.  How?
And, okay, say that God does reach through time and space to show me He loves me and…I don’t know…has some flower bloom extra-brilliantly for me with the exact right lighting, right as I’m walking by?  How do I know that was God, and not just a really pretty moment?  What if I didn’t even notice?  Or, if God does one of His “talking to me” things which feels a whole lot more like instinct or premonition or my subconscious trying to get attention, how do I know it’s God?
Yeah.  Exactly.
And how do I love God back?  I mean, He’s not human, not to mention He’s not even really a “He” (No, don’t go yelling at me for that one, it’s true.  If God made man AND woman in His image, than both reflect Him, which means He isn’t a He, nor a She, but both…somehow.  We can talk – nicely- about it if you want.)  How do I know what He likes?  He’s not human or a creature – how do I even know He CAN “like” stuff?  I can’t give Him a hug.  I can’t give Him Christmas gifts.  I can’t even find His profile on Facebook (well, I found a Facebook page that was named “God”…but I’m pretty sure it’s not actually His), so I can’t like any of His pictures or statuses.
So, HOW!?!
I really wish there was a formula.  I wish I could play Cogsworth (the clock dude from Beauty and the Beast) and tell you exactly how God loves you and how you can love Him back.

I mean, of course, as for God’s love, He has shown us the ultimate love by coming to Earth and taking our place and the consequences of our sinful lives.  Which is really, untruly, unfathomable.  But, on an everyday basis, in an incredibly physical world, sometimes we need a little personal reminder, right?  A man can marry a woman, but if he doesn’t tell her at least daily after the ceremony that he loves her, things are going to get rather ugly.  She’s eventually going to believe lies and she’ll forget that he loves her.  Saying “I love you” only at the wedding is just not enough.  This is common sense (or should be).
Same is true of us and God, I think.  I say that feeling a bit guilty and ashamed.  I mean, Jesus’ sacrifice should be enough.  But I’m human; I need a daily reminder.  (I think this was true before the world got all messy too – hence why God came down and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden often.)
After wrestling with this for years myself, the best I’ve come up with is actually pretty simplistic.  Though, keep in mind, unlike Cogsworth, I really don’t believe there’s a formula to this.  God, though orderly, is willing to enter into our mess, which means He’s not bound by formula.
First, you just gotta believe.  If you love God, if you want to love Him better, if you’ve surrendered your life to Him, than you need to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells with you.  He helps you out.  And often that feels like, for me anyway, a huge urge within me.  A desire that is so pressing is almost feels like a need. I had it explained once to me as the “blow fish” feeling – it feels like everything inside you is pounding / getting larger/ pressing to get out, and if you don’t do whatever it is you need to do or believe whatever you need to believe, you’ll explode.
Sometimes He’s much more quiet than that, and I wake up one morning realizing that I believe something I didn’t know I believed, or that I’m determined to do something I didn’t know I was going to do.
And I have to believe Him loving me happens in those moments when I feel close to Him.  Those moments when there is no real reason to feel extra close to Him, but I do.  Or when I notice that yellow flower growing on the side of the road, or I get a needed hug from an unexpected source.  Or dinner is extra delicious for no real reason.  Or, those incredibly rare, extra special moments when I’m being still, or even taking a walk or a hike or something and I can almost, physically, feel His presence surrounding me.  I have to not let my mind explain those treasured moments away.  I have to have faith that those experiences are actually God reaching out to little, limited, broken me.

As for loving Him back, I firmly believe that God gave each of us things we love to do, that can be forms of us telling God we love Him, us worshipping Him.  For me, that’s writing, taking pictures, going for walks, spending time in His creation, or having good conversations with friends and my kids.  For my dad, it’s learning or completing a Sudoku puzzle.  For Mom, it’s gardening.  For some, it might mean baking.  For others, it might mean painting or sewing or doing ceramics, or creating sculptures.  For some it might mean throwing a football, or scoring a basket.  Or driving.  Or doing some sort of complicated mathematical formula.  It looks like many different things.  For me, the key is picturing God in my mind, doing it with me.
And, of course, the main way we love God is to love others.  We are His reflection.  We carry His image within us.  How we treat each other is how we treat God.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and the second was to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  He said it in the same breath, even though he had only been asked what the greatest was.  It was as if the two commandments lead to each other.  As if one can’t really be done without the other.  Love God – through people, through your neighbor.

So, in summary (because people like summaries and I’ve “talked” a lot):
TRUST
trust that, when you think it might be, that it actually IS God speaking to you, loving you.
LOVE OTHERS –
Do whatever you have to do to let others know you love them.  Pretty “simple”.  Ha!
DO FUN STUFF –
Do stuff you enjoy, the stuff that gives you endorphins (even if, as is often true in my case,
there is no physical reason why you should be having endorphins running through you) and
invite God along.  He’s coming anyway, you might as well acknowledge Him, hang out with Him,
get to know Him better. It’s so much less awkward than when you’re ignoring Him when He’s
coming along anyway.

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Filed under Relationships, spiritual life

“Love thy neighbor”

“And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first time I actually thought about that verse must have happened sometime in middle school, because I remember thinking, “Huh, I can do better than that.  I don’t love myself, but I love others.  I can love my neighbor better than I love myself.”

I’ve heard quite a few sermons and theories about this particular verse over the years.  Everything from, “Well, it actually means to love yourself as you’d love your neighbor” to “You know, try to love yourself, try to love your neighbor” to “Love God, that’s what really matters”.

I wonder if loving ourselves is a uniquely Western culture problem (where very few people actually love themselves, actually are comfortable in their own skin – everyone just pretends) or if this is an age-old human problem.   I think maybe, if it were a universal problem, perhaps the scriptures would have been worded differently.  Maybe.

Because we pretend we love ourselves.  And sure, we’re selfish, we still take care of Number One before we take care of everyone else.  And if that’s what the scripture means – to take care of everyone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself – as some of my professors think – than it’s an easy scripture.  I mean, no not easy.   Taking care of someone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself, or protecting someone else as much as you protect your own well-being is never “easy”…but it’s rather surface-level if you ask me.

I have come to realize, over the years, that if I don’t “love myself”, than I can’t love others well.  And this gets tricky.  Because, yes, without fully being comfortable with whom I am, without liking my quirks, strengths and weaknesses, I can still be nice to people.  I can still be kind.  But…it is not the same as if I am fully embracing myself.  If I’m not a fan of who I am, I can only be nice or kind or giving or date someone so long before things start blowing up.  Whether I suddenly start showing my judgmental thoughts, or just stop showing up to hang out, or start getting super depressed (this is NOT the only reason for depression, mind you) or dependent on others or any number of super unhealthy things, something awful is going to show up.  Guaranteed.

But even bigger than that is the simple thing that love is generally meant to be reciprocated.  So, if you don’t love the person you are created to be, than how can you allow anyone else to love you (because yes, to some extent you have to allow and accept love from others)?  If you don’t love yourself, you can’t allow someone else’s love for you to really penetrate the depths of you that love is meant to penetrate.

The tricky thing is – that you can’t.  You just can’t love yourself, love the person you are, without God’s help.  Sorry.  It’s just not going to happen.   Only through the knowledge that you are Christ’s kid, and dearly loved by Him, specially created to have the quirks, strengths, weaknesses and passions you do, can you begin to really, truly, embrace the person you are.  And it is only by His strength in this world of brokenness that is trying to get you to believe the lie that you are never good enough and must be constantly doing something else; that you can even begin to accept the amazing being you have been created to be.

So, again, start praying.  Pray that God opens your eyes to see yourself as He sees you – as much as He’ll let you.  If we could see how deeply loved and precious we are in God’s eyes, than I’m pretty sure we’d be able to enjoy and hold close the person God is calling each of us to be.

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Filed under Personal Image, Relationships, Self / Emotions

Loved One

Sometime in the last year or so I read an article floating somewhere on the internet that talked about how we shouldn’t compliment very young girls with words like “pretty girl” and such, because then, somewhere in their psyche, they will think they have to be pretty to be appreciated, loved, and accepted.

 
I’m not sure how much I buy that, though I know that at some point in my childhood I definitely adopted that mentality.  That I had to be pretty, I had to be skinny (well, or at least, ‘normal’ – which I was not) for anyone to actually love me.   Being the child who saw things from a long-term viewpoint rather than just this-minute, I assumed this meant that I would never marry, since I would never be pretty, thanks to my extra serving of body curves.  Or, if I married, it would be a man who was a widower, and needed help raising his children.  No joke.  That’s what I assumed.

 
Which is heartbreaking, looking back.  I want to take young me, pick me up, cuddle me, and whisper truth into my younger ear.  But I don’t get that chance.

 
All that to say, I’m pretty hyper-sensitive to body-image remarks by women (or men) about themselves and others.  I’m also hyper-sensitive to comments that articles like the one I read make.  They stick with me now.
 

There is a little toddler that I babysit fairly frequently.  She’s absolutely adorable.  Blue eyes, curly hair, and the happiest, brightest smile that is reminiscent of a buttercup (that’s a flower for any flower-ignorant people out there).  She is toddler-gorgeous.

 
And while I tell her this fairly often (because I do think it’s necessary – girls NEED to hear they are pretty) I also make a point of complimenting her in other ways.  The endearment I try to use most often is “Loved One” – because that is exactly what she is, by me, by those around her, and especially by her parents.  And nothing can change that.  And there is nothing she can do to earn more love – or to lose it (not saying that she can’t make loving her harder or easier, because that is possible).

 
And so, if the names we call children when they are very young CAN take root deep inside them and help show them how to see the world, the name Loved One hopefully shows her how very un-dependent others’ love for her is based on her looks, or intelligence, or achievements.  In fact, others loving her, or her value, or her worth is dependent on nothing save her simply being her.
 

This hit me hard when I first started calling her Loved One – because I think that’s how it works with us and God.  Our value, our worth, our identity, God loving us, is dependent on NOTHING we do.  In fact, it’s simply because God made us, and we are who we are that gives us value, worth, identity, etc.  I wish I had realized that as a young girl, and especially as a teenager.

 

You are loved by God and others around you simply because you are you – not because of what you do or how you look.  Just keep bein’ you.  It’s the best gift you can give the world.

 

(Assuming, of course, that you bein’ you is a you that is striving to become more like the you that God envisioned when He made you.  I think that’s kinda incredibly important.  Of course, you can’t do that either without Him and accepting His love for you.)

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Filed under Personal Image, Self / Emotions, spiritual life