I never knew how much I didn’t know about love until I set forth on a path to understand it. If you walk into my house you will find the word love all over the place–quotes and scripture and even in marquee lights. I love love. It’s how I’m built. Sorry, not sorry. 😉
Yesterday one of my bestest friends and I had one of our usual all-over-the-map conversations. It left me pondering my journey into the world of the “living,” a journey I’m still winding along on. How did this awakening truly begin for me? How was this new Michelle born?
With death. Death brought me into the land of the living. (That line hearkens to be both poetic and unintentionally scriptural.) My friend and I were discussing my time in counseling and psychologically how that journey unfolded for me. How counseling gave me that safe place to discuss the inter-workings of myself, the falsehoods I’d taken as facts about myself, and the learned behaviors that were not healthy ones. Counseling is a place where you learn how to cope and unravel the “fake news” of your life. With the right counselor and the right openness it can lead you towards the truth. I am certainly a seeker of truth and facts. It’s just how Jesus made me.
I wonder how this works for other people. How does their “awakening” happen for them? I’ve watched countless programs and read plenty of articles and often times it is loss (the death of something: a person, relationship, career, etc.) that is credited with the change. Wouldn’t it be easier for us if we just jumped head first into the change ourselves? It would definitely be less traumatic, right? But if you’re anything like me you have to do things the hard way. *insert eye roll*
It wasn’t until after the unraveling of grief and sorrow from the loss of Chris that I was able to truly see I had a deeper issue on my hands. I was seeking to fill a void long before his unexpected passing. I’d been moving through the motions of life trying to fill my life bucket up, attempting to find my worth, and my purpose on my own with my education, my career, and my relationships. That was exhausting. Looking back my heart was in the right place, I was just walking down the wrong roads.
Yesterday as I was picking at my salad, searching for the words to explain the changes within my inner being it was difficult to muddle through all of the things I wanted to share. Besides, if I did share everything we would’ve been there for days.
The basics that spilled out went something like this. Counseling helped me immensely but so did the people in my life. We cannot look to a single solitary tool to fix us. We are complex beings. We were built to need one another. It is the basis of our society, our family structure, and no matter how much we want to throw our hands on our hips with our noses in the air saying, “we don’t need anyone,” we do. We cannot know everything, do everything, be everything on our own.
Loss offers us this frightening but life changing experience that crushes our world. We begin to question everything and if we’re willing to rise to the challenge we can begin the pursuit of truth. We begin to find ourselves in the midst of the brokenness. We are all broken but that’s not something to despair over, because our brokenness makes us new. It makes us unique. It gives us a special experience that we can use to help others, to change systems, to heal the broken. It gives us a point of reference to be alive, authentic, and real.
The pursuit of truth—it is in this adventure we find ourselves and who we are truly meant to be. In my pursuit of truth, I realized the emptiness I felt wasn’t from being a widow, that ache had been around my entire life. That ache came from false teachings, faulty learned behaviors, and those things gave rise to a darkness that lived within my spirit.
Counseling pointed me towards the psychological reasons for this and why those feelings weren’t based in truth. But I’m stubborn so it took a little more than psychological facts to sway me.
What broke my stubborn heart? Love. It was love that changed me. It was learning what real love is and experiencing it. Love is the root of all things good and real and true.
Real love doesn’t sweep you off your feet; it grounds you. It gives you roots so you can grow to bear the fruits of love like kindness, encouragement, and trust.
Where did I find this love? Did some tall, dark, and handsome man appear on my doorstep and wipe away all the emptiness? Nope. I used to think that if that scenario played out I’d be healed. I’d feel loved and whole. That fact is also fake news.
You see, you can’t find love. You can’t steal it. You can’t control it. You cannot will it. Love is a gift. A gift by its very definition involves only one act: for it to be received by the donee. Gifts do not constitute any effort of the recipient EXCEPT receiving. We must open our hands to it. Open our hearts to it.
These two birds (a male and female finch) visit my feeder every morning. They always show up together or rather “dine” together. They are a living visible representation of love. They do nothing to receive their meal other than be open to it. They fly up and open their little beaks to take part in my gift of love to them.
And here’s the beauty of love, it is unending, reciprocal, and feeds our inner hearts. Love is what fills the emptiness. Love fills our buckets. When I feel the ache of emptiness return, I’ve come to realize that I’ve stopped being open to love. I’ve stopped accepting it. When I get truly frustrated and empty it is because I’m grasping at love. Seeking to control it and make it work for me to fill that hole. When we give love, we receive it which if you flip that around reads like this, when we receive love, we give it. (Mind blown.) Love will always find its way back to you, you don’t have to find it. Love shows up. Love never fails. It is us who fail to receive it.
Open your heart to the gifts around you, love is in the little things. God is love and He meets us where we are, in the small blessings of the day. Large blessings come our way too but there is an endless supply of those little acts of love we often close ourselves off to while we long for something “bigger.” Those gifts of a smile, a laugh, a meal shared, a door held open–it is in these little things our emptiness begins to be filled.
The little things fill our buckets much quicker than big things. Love is incredibly powerful. But for it to work you have to let it in. Just like for counseling to work I had to let my counselor into my pains. Just like for a true friendship to work you must allow the other person into your heart.
Our inner demons keep us from the abundance of love around us. They tell us love isn’t real. So we settle for what we think is love. They tell us everyone has bad intentions. So we shut people out. They tell us we aren’t good enough. Our value is NOT determined by our demons. Our value is determined by our Maker. But we won’t ever believe that unless we learn to trust and let Him back into the beautiful hearts He created within us.
Love is as real as the words on my walls. As real as the two little birds on the feeder. As real as the person across the table from you. Love is real. And what’s even better is love is endless, eternal, deeper, and more perfect than anything our stubborn imperfect selves can attempt to define.
Love does heal, but you must hold out your hands, and open up your heart for it to be received. Because love does not force its way. Love just flows.
I hope you find the love in your life today. If you’re looking at dark situations or difficult times, remember love is still surrounding you even if you can’t see it or feel it. It’s there. Love is always there for you. Love never fails us.
Love will change your life. It has mine, in ways I’d never have imagined.
Love, Hugs, & Sunshine,