For the majority of my life I have struggled to feel loved. There have been these mountaintop moments where either I wrapped my head around it or the grand expressions of others got the point across and I have received love, but otherwise, I have felt that I have had to work to earn others’ affections. It’s taken me a long time to really understand this, but it’s a pretty painful realization.
The thing is, I learned a long time ago, how to get affection (I’m not talking about physical intimacy here – I’m talking admiration, attention, and the like) if I really wanted it…and I wasn’t mean or immoral. I sincerely care about the feelings of other people, so talking with them and delving into issues and listening really isn’t that hard for me. And bonus (for me) I got the love I so desired. If I wanted someone’s love or affection, I knew how to “dance and sing” so to speak to earn it…sometimes it took a conversation, sometimes it took time to see what they liked, but I knew what would make people like me. And I wasn’t immoral, I still talked about God, I still told others about God and was kind and loving to them, and a lot of people said that I was helping them.
So what’s the problem…
The problem is it wasn’t true. I was projecting parts of myself making them seem larger than they were to seem more agreeable and masking parts of myself I didn’t think people would like, and not just in a way that is gracious or appropriate per the situation, but disproportionate. The problem is that I was so concerned with other people loving me, and even though I wasn’t being mean to anyone, and even being nice by many standards, I wasn’t loving other people enough (or respecting myself enough) to be honest about who I am and give others the freedom to accept or reject the real me. It was a facade. And when life became tumultuous (as it will in seasons) and I no longer had the strength to impress others, I found there was no one who could handle or knew the real me.
Desiring to please others is a wonderful quality, but when coupled with a lack of feeling loved it can be toxic, and it nearly choked the life out of me. But God shook me awake.
It took time for me to relearn who I really am again, in balance, but He has shown me, and then the process of learning to love and accept me. I had to grieve who I am not, be thankful for I am, and be honest about my strengths and limitations.
But the greatest pain thus far has been after all that, pressing through and being honest about me (I’m not talking about airing your dirty laundry in town square, just not distorting things to make it look like I’m someone I’m not, and in the right moments with those who seem desirous to grow deeper, sharing more intimate thoughts and feelings) – after all that, allowing someone else to really know you and giving them to freedom to make up their own ideas about you, they might decide they don’t like you.
And gosh, this pain just makes me want to pack it all up and call it a day - it was a nice ride, thank you for that Jesus, but I think I’ll go back to my painted on smiles and loud chatter…but then He reminds me, that because He loved us and He wanted to be loved, He gave us freedom to make our own choices. He did not force us to love or obey Him. He has revealed Himself to us, sent His son to die for us, and made us great and precious promises, but we are still free to reject Him. Our Father, my sweet Father, my sweet Jesus knows the pain that I feel. But He loves us anyway. And He reminds me that if I ever want to know the sweetness of real love, I’ll have to keep pressing through, because real love can only be real if I am really known.
I still struggle with feeling awkward, hard to love. I still feel different. I still often feel like there is nowhere that I fit other than just right here in my family of four (but I am so thankful that there is at least one place I belong, even if its small). But while I must grieve again from time to time, I keep pressing in to the God who understands my heart. I keep asking Him for strength to be authentic even when it seems difficult or painful. And I keep asking for Him to bring people of good character and healthy relating my way to try again, and that someday soon I’ll find some love to stay.