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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Prayer

When You Say You Love Me

When You Say You Love Me

“I love you.” Three small words, but put together, they are the most profound three-word sentence that can be spoken using the many languages of humanity. Not unlike the ancient Greek philosophers who tried to define differing “types of love”, we continue to struggle with its multiple meanings today – from using it casually to express our feelings for our simplest preferences, such as “I love pizza,” to using it in its more deeper sense to try to adequately express our most intimate feelings in interpersonal relationships when we say, “I love you, ________.”

We humans have a significant handicap when it comes to love. Our fallen human nature will forever prohibit us from being able to experience, both in giving and receiving, truly authentic love. Yet that desire is written deep within our hearts and we are driven to search, often at great costs, to find it. Some are blessed to come into this world with a glimpse of what authentic love looks like. Some, much less fortunate, come into the world lacking anything that even remotely resembles authentic love. Then, as we journey through life, trying to navigate the numerous and differing types of relationships, we hunger to hear those three words. Whether it is a relationship with a parent, child, relative, friend, spouse, etc., we all long to be heard, understood, accepted – to know we are loved by others’ affirming us in word and deed. What we sometimes experience, however, is the exact opposite. With such obvious disparity prevalent in our worldly experience of love, is it any wonder we fail so often at what we all so desperately yearn for?

Creation very often reveals human nature in its beauty and its brokenness.  As I walked the beach one day trying to process what had happened between myself and a friend, it struck me how much “love” is like the ocean. Vast, deep and dark in parts, shallow and light in parts, some days rough, other days calm, stretching out beyond where I can see or comprehend – it encompasses all I can “experience” in love – enjoyment, relaxation, intimidation, inspiration, admiration, uncertainty, peace, thanksgiving, change, stability, rejuvenation, … and the list goes on…

When we choose to love, our “loves/relationships” are like shells that get tossed about the depths and shallows, carried by the tides of the ocean, eventually washing up on shore to be exposed to the bright light of day. Some of those loves make it to shore, small but whole and colorful. Some wash up still beautiful in appearance, but broken or with the tell-tale holes made by boring predators. Others, once part of something much more elaborate and grander, are now but a mere fragment of what they had been.  Exposed to the light, we are sometimes given a chance to examine and admire them for their beauty, despite their altered appearances. Sometimes, however, the tides come and sweep them back to the sea before we know it, sinking to the depths out of view, or tumbling about aimlessly among the waves, only to wash up, once again, on the shore.

Our human endeavors at loving seem to mimic the shells. Some loves leave us whole, but only a small version of who we can be. Some wash us up, still beautiful, but broken or with the scars of battle. Others allow us to grow into something elaborate and grand, but eventually leave us mere fragments of who we had been.  If we are fortunate,we will be given the enlightened opportunity to examine and admire the beauty in our relationships despite how they have altered us. There will be times, however, when our loves/relationships will slip out of our grasp and we will either have to relinquish them, or try to navigate the “bumpy ride” to bring them back to safe shores where they can be admired once again.

It is no surprise that the majority of shells on the beach are broken and altered, just like most human loves/relationships are broken and altered because of our inability to love authentically. Does that mean we are left then to journey through life broken and altered and without hope of finding that love we yearn for or to hear those three words said authentically? Every day we take the “good” we have experienced and the “bad” we have experienced in our loving and venture out into the vast ocean of humanity, hoping to “get it right.”

As I walked along the beach pondering this analogy, a shell just ahead on the sand caught my full attention. Brilliantly white, perfectly whole, nothing hidden, fully exposed to the light – the answer to loving in its completeness. Only one love/relationship can be everything that shell represented – the “I love you” God spoke when He chose to share our humanity, living on this earth to show me how to love, the “I love you” He spoke when He stretched out His arms on the cross, the “I love you” He spoke when He formed me in my mother’s womb, the “I love you” He speaks now every second of every day through the loves/relationships I currently have in my life (yes, even the difficult ones and the times I fail to love as I ought).  Until my earthly loves/relationships are examined in His light and then transformed (“broken and altered”) into reflections and mirror images of His love for me, I will continue to fall short of giving and receiving love authentically. It is only when I allow Him to transform my feeble attempts at loving that they will become occasions of grace, healing, freedom, fulfillment, and authenticity; only then will the shells in my life be whole, white, pure, and sanctifying.

Josh Groban’s song, “When You Say You Love Me” recently came up on one of my music stations.  As I drove home from the beach, the words came to me again, but this time, I found myself singing them in response to the best “I love you” I could ever hear and the only “I love you” that will ever authentically fulfill my heart’s greatest desire for love.  In this month of “love”, as you celebrate the loves in your life and perhaps mourn the loves where you have failed, may you hear the “I love you” He longs for you to hear – the one true love you have this side of heaven and the only love that can transform our earthly love into a glimpse of the divine.

When You Say You Love Me

Josh Groban

Like the sound of silence calling

I hear your voice and suddenly I’m falling

Lost in a dream

Like the echoes of our souls are meeting

You say those words, my heart stops beating

I wonder what it means

What could it be that comes over me

At times I can’t move

At times I can’t hardly breathe

 

When you say you love me

The world goes still, so still inside

When you say you love me

For a moment, there’s no one else alive

 

You’re the one I’ve always thought of

I don’t know how but I feel sheltered in your love

You’re where I belong

And when you’re with me if I close my eyes

There are times I swear I feel like I can fly

For a moment in time

Somewhere between

The heavens and earth

I’m frozen in time

Oh when you say those words

 

When you say you love me

The world goes still so still inside

When you say you love me

For a moment, there’s no one else alive

 

And this journey that we’re on

How far we’ve come and I

Celebrate every moment

When you say you love me

That’s all you have to say

I’ll always feel this way

 

When you say you love me

The world goes still so still inside and

When you say you love me

In that moment, I know why I’m alive

 

When you say you love me

 

When you say you love me

Do you know how I love you?

 

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Alyssa Azul Conversion Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Loving Me Through Him

image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hiker-hiking-nature-hipster-solo-846094/

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) we are told. This is the second greatest commandment. What does loving yourself look like? The answer lies in the first (Matthew 22:37), “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

I realized very quickly that I could not love myself by my own strength. I needed to look beyond myself and my neighbors. My journey towards self-acceptance began in a dark place during my adolescent years.

I was bullied for being short, quiet and more plain-looking than the other kids. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so I didn’t have the newest, most up-to-date clothes and technology that it seemed everyone else had. You know what they say– “the kids in middle school can be so cruel!” But what was more cruel were the things that I heard in the silence of my own thoughts. I was that 13-year-old girl who buried herself between the pages of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was a heartbreaking way of coping with the teen angst–you knew that most kids had to endure and attempt to master the awful art of fitting in, yet you felt like nobody could possibly have it worse than you.

The older I got, the more and more I disliked who I was, outside and inside. I was achingly awkward and always treated as a doormat among my “friend” group. I was the last and the least among my peers. I stayed up at night wishing that I could wake up one day and be a completely different person. I didn’t understand why God had made me this way, especially feeling like the fact that I didn’t look like my peers was a punishment of sorts. I hoped and prayed that one day I would get my turn as the heroic female lead. That I would be feminine enough. That I would be strong-willed and fearless. That someday someone else would love me.

At 17 years old I entered into a relationship with someone who showed me that love was…conditional. That loving someone meant you had to compromise your dignity. The idea that “if you give me what I want, or if you measure up, then I’ll love you.” Sadly, I am one of many girls who share this experience of attaining love, whether it be from a boyfriend, friend, or family member.

Because I was young and this relationship was not Christ-centred, I had no idea how to love someone else. I had lost my self-respect, settling for giving my all to someone else in order to prove myself useful and worthy. Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t wake me up from this bad dream. Why didn’t he reveal himself to me as, putting it lightly,  the man I had been searching for all my life.

All this time I was looking to be noticed by God, He was really waiting for me to notice Him first. My insecurities broke me from the inside, enough for God to find His way in. He didn’t embrace me like a heavy storm, but like a soft, gentle rainfall. Often, only through tears did I see Him.

I truly believe that these painful growing experiences really do show you what you are made of. Our brokenness is an offering that brings us closer to God, and ultimately who we are meant to be (Psalm 51:17). It’s like starting life from taking your first steps, finding out which things are stable enough to hold onto, versus the things that falter when you lean on them. I think we often end up choosing the weaker, more unsteady foundations. Like that child, what we need is someone to take our hand and carry us. We are lost sheep, in need of guidance. (Isaiah 40:10-11).

Today, I still have times when I don’t love who I am. Loving myself was never about seeing myself as a new person healed from all the hurts of the past. Loving God showed me that my brokenness had a purpose. It’s about seeing yourself as God sees you, even with the cuts and bruises of our sin. What does loving yourself look like? It looks like mercy. Our journey towards holiness is learning how to love as the Father loves. This doesn’t mean we will be able to love perfectly, but we know that we aren’t able to love ourselves fully without knowing and loving God first.

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Charla

When a friend no longer loves you…

brokenfriendshipAbout nine years ago, a person who I thought was my best friend, a lifelong friend of 21 years at the time, came over to my house with a notebook and a list. She proceeded to tell me all the things wrong with me, all the bad or wrong things I had ever done in the past 21 years: I teased her too much, I was too honest about my feelings, I was too opinionated, I was a hypocrite, I was selfish, I was materialistic. She gave me examples and instances in which I did or said things she didn’t approve of. Apparently, all those years, instead of telling me what bothered or offended her at that moment, she let it fester. She kept a running inventory and then wrote it all down and blasted me with it. I didn’t argue. I probably did do or say all the things she charged me with. I apologized and said I never meant to hurt her or anyone else with any of my behaviors or words. I sobbed, as she sat stoic. I was eight months pregnant at the time, so I was a vulnerable, hormonal, emotional mess anyway. She finished by saying it was now up to me. I told her, “What is up to me? You don’t even like me.” She said if I changed, we could still be friends. I asked her again, “Why? You don’t even like me!” All our mutual friends sided with her. I was now left with none of the friends I thought I’d have forever.
So, where does my faith come in to all of this? Where is God? I allowed someone else to make me feel so unlovable, so unworthy and so very flawed, that it was difficult to feel like there was anyone else who could possibly feel differently about me. It felt like everyone must hate me like she did. After all, she was my best friend, and if my best friend couldn’t love me, why would my husband, my kids, my sister, my other friends, or even God, love me? Was I really that unlovable?
I don’t think she has ever thought it was wrong to do what she did to me. I deserved it after all for being such a horrible person. I deserved to lose my friends, according to her. That list of bad things negated everything good or positive I had done the past 21 years. I was shocked, stunned, angry, and overall, devastated. The memory is still so surreal. I don’t believe we really understand how much one individual can hurt another so profoundly– until it happens to us. There had to be something good to come from this; my faith told me so.
worthyThe lesson I learned is two-fold. One: The only thing that brought me peace was introspective prayer. I had to search inside myself for God. I had to remind myself that God was within me and always a part of me. How could that part be hateful? I learned to re-love myself through the love I had for God, because I believe He resides in me. I am made in His image and likeness. He was the one who would be strong for me, and He was the one to be the goodness within me. Two: God loves me. It is the first thing I learned during my childhood; God loves me. It doesn’t matter what I have done, what I have said, or what other people think of me. God’s love is unconditional. I apologized to my former friend, but I asked for forgiveness from God. I know I am imperfect, but God doesn’t hold it against me. Realizing God’s love for me helped me to allow other people to love me again: my husband, my kids, and my other friends. I was in such a depressed state, due to this episode, I pulled away from people. I didn’t see myself worthy of their love and affection, because that one person did not find me worthy. God changed that in me. If God, who is perfect, loves me and will always love me, whether I allow Him to or not, then I have to allow others to love me. My trust was so broken, but God mended my heart. I began to see God more in those other people, especially my husband and kids.
I suppose the there is a third thing that occurred to me and that is the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a funny thing. I know the wise advice that forgiving someone is more for me than it is for the person who hurt me and holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I get it. I agree with it. It’s so much easier said than done. I want to forgive her, and there are days that I have, and then there are days, even nine years later, that I revert to the hurt and yes, anger. Do I need to forgive her? Do I need to forgive myself? She caused me hurt, or had I actually caused it myself? I very well could have compiled my own list for her, but I wouldn’t. I could not inflict the same pain even on her.
It’s taken me a very long time to get over the hurt of that day nine years ago. I’m even nice to her when I see her. There are times I think I’m over it, then the hurt comes bubbling up to the surface days when I think too much, or when I’m feeling extra insecure or vulnerable in some way. It is those moments in which I remind myself of God’s love for me, my love for God, and my love for myself.
godlove

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Ink Slingers Lynne Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth

Giving Them Back

 

If you love something, let it go free.

If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.

If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.

 

I never really liked this drippy little high-school saying.  It best describes an injured wild bird that someone nurses back to health and then watches flit away, never to return, despite the tenderness that has been showered upon it.  Then again, maybe children are like this, too.  We spend our best years nurturing, teaching, and loving them, and then let them go free.  Maybe they will return someday—but certainly never to be “ours” forever.  And even if they do return, I have to realize that they were never mine to begin with.

The other day I caught the end of a talk on the radio.  The speaker was saying, “Give your children back to God.”  It’s an old line, but because of my life circumstances it hit me with fresh force.  Give them back to God.  Why didn’t I think of this before all the crying and vomit and broken bones and bickering?  I’ve kept them this long, but maybe it’s time to reconsider. Is there a statue of limitations on returns? Since God is eternal, I think I’m good.  Let the returning begin.  Now.

I have two children in college.  Letting them make the transition into the adult world has been difficult.  It’s not that I want to control every aspect of their lives.  Rather, it’s that I see that I can no longer protect them, even in small ways, from the evil that prowls about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.  I can’t shield them or keep them safe.  Then again, I guess I never could.

My oldest son, since age 16, has struggled silently with his belief in God.  I remember the first time I knew this.  We were driving home, the stars large and bright in the night sky—I could have reached up and touched the hand of God.  But something in our conversation, something carefully understated, caused me to realize that my son was no longer sure that God was there.  When he went off to college, I sent a Bible and a small crucifix.  As I left him, standing on the curb a thousand miles away from home, I wept.  Now, as he prepares to graduate, he was, at long last, able to confess that his belief in God is dead.  I know, as I know few things, that God placed him in this university.  For the last four years, he was where he was supposed to be.  My predominant feeling over this time has been, “We’ve lost him.”  But I had to let him go.

(This one didn’t perform as expected.  Can I make an exchange?)

 

Tim Oram/Getty Images
Tim Oram/Getty Images

My second son was exposed to pornography at age twelve.  He saw a sexually enticing ad and web address in the back of a scientific magazine in our own home. When he went to college, computer in hand, I knew he was walking into the lion’s den, yet I felt powerless to stop it.  All our talks together, all my prayers for him seemed insignificant in the face of the monstrosity that would confront him there.  His temptations have been as bad or worse than I could have expected.  But I had to let him go.

(This one is broken and I can’t fix him.  Can you credit my account?)

 

I recently read The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God. It is the story of the life of Ruth Pakaluk, a wife and mother who died at age forty-one after an extended struggle with cancer.  The book tells how she and her husband met and fell in love, of their conversion from atheism to Christianity, and of Ruth’s astonishing contributions to the pro-life movement while mothering her six children and undergoing cancer treatments.  It also tells of her extreme suffering, and her absolute, even joyful, resignation to God’s will.

Ruth was a letter-writer, and the larger part of the book is simply a collection of the letters that she had written over the years—to parents, friends, priests, and politicians.  Her last letters, appropriately, were for her children.  She expressed her pride and love, but she also admonished—pointing out weaknesses the children needed to work on.  She spoke to friends with confidence and trust of giving her children to Mary—though also with great sadness at the thought of leaving them motherless.  I thought of how she, much more so than I, had to let her children go.

So the guy on the radio caught my attention when he said: “Give them back to God.”  The speaker was a priest, and he told of how he sat his parents down to explain his calling to the priesthood.  He described his mother nodding and smiling through it all, as though she already knew the story.  When he finished, she told him “It’s no surprise to me.  You were never mine to begin with.  Your father and I gave you back to God as soon as you were born.”

I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 13, which outlines what authentic love looks like:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

I have to give my children the same freedom that their creator gives them.  Love can’t be about possession or control…or about me.

St. Paul goes on to say,

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Growing up is something we all have to do—myself included.  We all have to move out of our comfort zones, and live out God’s calling to the fullest, even when it’s scary.   Because we see “through a mirror, dimly” we aren’t able to visualize the big picture.  I can’t even imagine what God has planned for my children or how he will operate in their lives. Instead I have to cling to God’s words.  Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

My youngest child is 22 months old, and already she wants to be fully independent of me.  All my children have wills of their own, over which (soon enough) I have little control.  I can love them, and teach them and discipline them.  I can listen, and I can pray.  But in the end, I have to let them go.  I have to give them back.  They were never mine to begin with.

(Can I speak to the manager?  Please?)