We Have Not Been Well Loved

We have not been well-loved and valued; we have not been fully embraced as we are, even if we grew up in a loving family. It is far worse for someone who grows up with abuse in any form. Still we are a prickly people. We are self-preoccupied. We live mostly in the past or future, allowing our absorption,  the unresolved past and the worrisome projections into the future to rule us. Our self-absorption keeps us from being full partners with Christ in creating a life for us in the kingdom.

We can’t really even feel the love he is extending to us every day. We push it away, because we are more comfortable with our problems and deficiencies than we are with feeling positive about ourselves. And if we allowed ourselves to feel God’s love for us, then we’re afraid of what he will ask us to do! We would rather keep at least some control of our lives than hand them fully over to God. So we live in a never-never land of partial commitment to Christ while at the same time retaining control of our lives.

I’ve written before that we hang onto our childhood attitudes and let them color our view of reality. We don’t see what is real and true, we only see what we project onto that reality.

I know from experience how this works in me. I’ve held God at arm’s length by barely acknowledging the things—like sunsets and sunrises—that really inspire me. Their beauty can stop me in my tracks, sometimes for a whole 45 minutes to an hour it takes for a sunset to unfold. But recently I realize that I have looked at sunrises and sunsets for a second or two in my rush to get back to the internet or tv.  What I’ve done with them is to nod at them and hold them—and God– at arm’s length.

Will I? Will you feel God’s love and inspiration or will we rush right past it in our hurry to get someplace else? Will we take the time we know it takes to sit in silence, to enter into the presence of God? Will we receive and value what God is sending to us all the time?

It takes a willingness in us to be loved, to be wanted, celebrated, welcomed. For that is what God is holding out to us: love and all it entails. But we have to be willing to set aside our own attitudes, presumptions, and assumptions about life in order to entertain the truth about life, the way God sees us and the world.

“Enter through the narrow gate,,,” as Jesus says in Matthew 7, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” [vs. 13-4 NIV] It is easy to get on the road that leads to destruction, to self-preoccupation. We can keep all we have of the cultural mores and our own interpretations of how life works for us to enter the road to destruction. The more difficult task is to shed all that is not truly you or me, to shed all the acculturated stuff, attitudes and goals in life, to get down to the real, the true, the person we were created to be. Then, it doesn’t matter what has happened to us in the past or how we’ve responded to life, because we are truly resting in God’s arms, aware of his presence and providence above all other things.

I think that there is a two-step process through which we cease to be so influenced by the false-self, or the self-preoccupied, part of ourselves. The first step is to let go of those assumptions, expectations, the culture-driven patterns of thinking. This entails getting a little distance from the thoughts we have like “I deserve this” or “I have to have that” or “It was supposed to be like this…” So we begin to let go of those false-self desires, to see them as our own short-sighted wishes; most of all we let go of the anxiety that these thoughts produce in us. And as we practice letting go of these desires we notice a more peaceful approach to life happening in us. We don’t have the emotional investment in such thinking. We have distanced ourselves from these thoughts, unplugged, so to speak, from their power over us.

The more we practice this kind of letting go, the more we find ourselves in a state of seeing what God is doing in our lives in the way of blessings and grace, the more we are talking to, being honest with God, the more we’re building a dependence on the Lord and what he wants for us. So we let go of what we want in favor of what God wants for us which is the agenda set for us in our creation.

The second stage in this process, once we have accomplished some amount of distance from our habitual thoughts and their power over us, is then to embrace the parts of ourselves that are producing the “I want this,” “I have to have that!” Or “it was supposed to be this way!” Usually these thoughts come from the needs of the long-ago child. So now we learn not to give him or her what he wants, but to acknowledge who is asking for these things, to embrace the part of us that is so needy, to love the previously unlovable parts of ourselves, the ones we have pushed away or judged as not acceptable in the past.

The reason we need to do this is what I consider a law of human behavior: that we can only love others and God to the extent that we love ourselves, warts and all. For the child within it is too late for his father or her mother to love and accept her/him as s/he is. Only the adult version of the hurting child can provide the love and acceptance and even embrace that was so lacking when the child was growing up.

So when we can finally and fully love ourselves, we are really capable of loving God and others. I repeat: it’s to the extent that we can love ourselves that we are able to love God and other people. Really, how can we give what we have not experienced or don’t have? One who can love takes care of his or her own needs so that he or she is able to give continuously. One who loves sees himself as the equal of the other he wants to give to, equally giver and equally receiver. One who loves validates the other’s experience of life, accepts the person where s/he is, and is in a two-way relationship with the other, telling his own story and hearing hers, each sharing what has worked for them, each sharing sorrow and joy. Love is a freely-given exchange of selves.

Here’s how I think this process works:

1. I am not able to love myself at all. if I don’t love myself, I am pushing away another’s attempts to love me, including God’s blessings and grace he is constantly sending me. I may “know” he loves me, but I can’t feel that love. I am starved for love. Anxiety/anger/fear rule me because I can’t get what I want. I can’t love anyone else when I don’t feel loved. I am still seeking love for me, attention, etc. everywhere I look—the ego is still in charge—even when I am trying to give to others. I am anxious a lot. I am self-serving.

2. I begin to look at myself with some positive thoughts. When I begin to embrace myself and the unlovable aspects of me, I am peeking out from behind the walls I built to protect myself, I begin to notice God’s attention to me. I don’t push away another’s positive words about me. I see that I can give without expecting anything in return.

3. I love myself warts and all. As I shower love, acceptance and embrace on all the errant parts of myself, I notice a great relaxation in me. I don’t have to assert myself anymore or apologize for who I am. I just am who I am. I now accept the whole of who I am, warts and all. I am comfortable in my own skin. I see that I can give without resentment and I am beginning to really feel God’s love for me.

 

As we embrace and love who we are, our capacity to love ourselves, others and God grows exponentially. Soon we feel we are in the flow of love in the universe, giving and receiving, being given to. Giving no longer takes anything out of us, the flow just keeps on going, in and out of us, to us and from us. Finally, we are well loved.

 

Questions to ponder over the week: Do feel well loved? By others? By God? By yourself? Will you begin to embrace the whole of who you are?

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