Where do we look for love in our lives? It is the basis of a question that goes far beyond the surface of our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with others, delving deep into our sense of security and belonging. Where there is love, there is purpose, whereas the opposite is also true. The absence of love creates “holes,” empty places in our hearts that are often times hard to fill depending on the circumstances, and yet the people who learn to seal this emotional void in a healthy way are often truly inspiring.
Holes can appear at any time or place in a person’s life, but the holes I wish to explore are those which arise from challenging familial circumstances, as well as their effects on the interpretation of love they create. My inspiration comes in the form of one of my very close friends who has faced more challenges in her short life than many do in a lifetime, but who has risen to the trials with grace, wisdom, and humility. This is a girl who was born out of wedlock to a father who removed himself from her life before she had ever taken her first breath. She was the blessing of a mother’s choice to keep her child instead of giving into society’s constant pressure for abortion. Raised by a single mother, she did not meet her father until she was 7 years old, and despite occasional correspondence, has never felt that deep emotional connection to a paternal figure. God created man and women to be together and procreate, therefore creating a family dynamic where the presence of both a mother and a father is important in the upbringing of a child, especially a little girl. It has been proven that girls are born with the inert desire to feel protected, as well as the desire to nurture and care for those around us. This maternal instinct begins at a very early age. Just think about your favorite toys as a child. For most of us ladies, a baby doll would make the list, and we were often seen tucking it into bed, pushing it in strollers, feeding it plastic bottles, and singing it to sleep. I recently spent the summer living with my 3 year old cousin who, as to be expected, begged to play house at every opportunity. As she “tucked” me into bed, she would kiss me on the forehead, get me a “drink of water,” and tell me very seriously not to be afraid of monsters. To most of us, this interaction with young children takes us back to a place where innocence and imagination were the forefront of thought, yet it also opened my eyes to the impressionability of children in their early years of development. What my cousin was replicating so innocently was the love of her mother demonstrated by her nurturing care, something that is bound to stay with my cousin for the rest of her life and into her own motherhood.
While a mother’s love is essential in establishing the compassion and nurturing tendencies of a little girl, the father serves as the knight in shining armor right out of the pages of every fairy tale read to these little girls as they are tucked into bed. There is an innate desire in every girl that creates the desire to love and be loved. Something about being surrounded in the strong arms of a male figure, whether it be a father, brother, grandpa, uncle, cousin, boyfriend, or spouse, is incredibly special because it creates that feeling of security we all yearn for. The presence of a father goes beyond security, however, altering the emotional composition of a child as well. Although I may be biased because I have been blessed with a supportive and loving father, I believe that we, as girls, learn the identity of love from the male figures in our own lives. There are so many of us who strive to be “daddy’s little girl,” and as we mature, we still look to please them and yearn for their approval and admiration. It is they who set the foundation and set the standard for our expectations of how we perceive affection as well as the treatment we desire when it comes to finding a significant other.
I have seen time and time again girls who have struggled in the past with familial issues of all kinds with varying responses and methods of compensation. Sometimes the holes they discover are the result of a missing family member, a death, divorce, abuse, breakup, or even negative experiences with another male or female. It is here where faith plays the biggest role in the helping fill these holes which can appear, so it seems, without reason. There are often two roads we can take when dealing with this emptiness: the first is to turn to material things as a way to plug the “holes” which can involve extremes of drinking, smoking, drugs, and extensive partying. This can also include the desperate search for love in the form of any member of the opposite gender who is willing to take you in his arms and show you “love” in whatever way you require. When we take this road, we lose our sense of expectation, seeking instead for superficial love instead of the deep emotional and spiritual love often needed to heal our hearts. The second of these two roads, as I mentioned before, is the road of faith. My friend whose story was recounted earlier has chosen this road, a decision which has not been without struggles but has allowed her to touch the lives of many people around her. She often speaks about the 3 types of love in the bible: philios, eros, and agape. Philios, brotherly love, and eros, erotic love, are the two emotions within the capabilities of mankind, but agape love is the selfless love of absolute sacrifice, a pure and unconditional love which can only be given to us by our Heavenly Father. God’s love for each one of His children supersedes even that of our closest friends and loved ones. When we reach the point in our lives where our holes seem to have turned to chasms too great to fill, it is only by reaching out to Him that we can begin the process of healing for God is there to take you in His loving embrace no matter what the circumstances and fill you with the unconditional love that only our Father in heaven can provide.
Brianna Barkocy is a high school senior and honors student who has attended Catholic school for all four years of high school. She has been actively involved in the Church since 6th grade and her father was recently ordained as a Deacon. She enjoys reading and hopes to pursue writing into her adult years. She is also passionate about reaching out to youth who are in the process of finding their faith, serving as a youth group leader and teen spiritual advisor at her parish. Her motto is “God doesn’t always give us everything we want, but he always gives us everything we need.”