One of my character flaws is seeing the world in black and white. Forcing things to be hot or cold, on or off, in or out takes up a lot of mental real estate. If it’s got to be one or the other, then there must be rules that must be followed. I’m sure it takes a lot more effort to convince myself that something is all bad rather than just accept it as gray.
One of the ways God has been growing me in this lately is in helping me to recognize that love can look a lot of different ways. I was noticing that I had made the rules of love so rigid, and set the bar so high that feeling love from others became nearly unattainable for me. I’ve struggled much of my life with not feeling worthy of love, so I think these crazy strict expectations were born out of a coping mechanism. Nevertheless (isn’t that a fun word?!) I would still find myself pouting like a 2 year old who didn’t her way, blaming God for making me an unloveable mess. One particular season of life found me spitting accusations at God, and even spewing out prayers of manipulation. “God, I need you to do this for me. Make love show up. I know you’re probably not going to, but I’m asking you anyway and giving you this chance to prove me wrong…” (I’m glad my God is a big God-big enough to handle my drama.) This was one of the few times in my life that I felt like I got a direct reply from above. It wasn’t an audible voice, just a stirring in my head completely contradictory to the fit I was throwing. I felt like God was saying “Would you even know it if you saw it?” If God in my head spoke hip hop, he would have definitely ended it with “mic drop.”
Since that time I’ve been trying to live with my heart open, open to the possibilities of what all love might-could look like.
- Words from friends. My rule with words was to assume that everyone with something nice to say was just being polite and didn’t really mean it. Right around this new open minded time I received a card from one of the girls in my 7th grade small group. She told me I was her most favorite adult. Knowing this girl, and knowing that she rarely says anything she doesn’t mean—this was a straight shot to the feels. I felt the weight of those words. Then I got to thinking, what if others have been saying equally weighty things and I was missing it because I assumed the worst? I assumed their “thanks, you’re the best!” was flippant, and I was denying both of us the opportunity to let those words sink in and deepen our friendship. I’m a ‘words’ person and when I widened my strike zone, I found so many more people were throwing love my way. Far more than I realized. (I have been sitting at my kids’ baseball for 4 hours tonight, but I’m going to resist the urge to throw a home run metaphor in there…. for now at least.)
- Coffee and baked goods! Now this one got a little muddy for me. (Get it – coffee…mud?!) I KNEW when coffee or baked goods showed up on my desk that it was love. Plain as day. No brainer. But when I broadened the rules a little, suddenly invites from friends to go get coffee took on a new meaning. Maybe these friends actually wanted to get coffee and hang out because they liked me? Seems trivial, but I had never put two and two together until now. I had never let myself consider the possibility that someone might want to spend time with me, just because, drinking coffee and chatting, because they love me. Mind=blown. Love=shown.
I don’t know if this is helpful for anyone. As I said here, I might not be writing it for anyone other than myself anyway. I have a feeling that this is something I’m going to have to keep coming back to, keep reminding myself, keep relearning. But if you do find yourself feeling alone, or feeling like your love tank is constantly on empty, try taking a look around with a fresh perspective. Maybe those around you are pouring out love, but the opening on your tank is too small to let it in. Maybe love looks less like obnoxious, embarrassing gestures and more like doing life with you. Less like a dozen roses and more like a well-timed, meaningful text message. Less like a one-time homerun and more like playing catch for hours.
I could be wrong. I could be completely reading way too much good into what others are offering. That’s a risk I’m willing to take. I dare you to join me.