I’m unsure of the why’s and how’s or even the when’s of it. But slowly, over time I’m sure, I lost my grip on my belief that I was lovable. Somewhere between believing I could be a princess or the president and getting my driver’s license, the knowledge that I was a person who could be loved was overruled by all the evidence to the contrary.
There was a moment when I decided that human beings were just creatures that would sooner hurt me than hug me, and that I didn’t need them. So I decided to strike out on my own, strong in the knowledge that all I needed was myself. I couldn’t trust anyone, and therefore I would have to handle this life on my own two feet making decisions for myself. God, unfortunately, fell into that mix of the unnecessary and slightly untrustworthy.
It’s a strange logic I used over the years. I didn’t deny His existence. I certainly couldn’t deny the small tuggings I felt in my heart at Mass or the knowledge that He was there somewhere. I knew He was active in everyone else’s life and that He loved everyone as a father loves his children. I just never actually counted myself among those children.
Looking back now, I realize how lonely that made me feel. Dependent only upon myself. Celebrating my victories and ruing my failures in the safety of my solitude. Deep and lasting friendships were impossible as those require a trust and faith in both people. 2 things I had given up very early on.
And then, for some reason or another, I signed up to go on this retreat at my church. I rolled my eyes, made every excuse not to go, and somehow still landed in the middle of this 32 hour experience with over 30 women I didn’t know. It was hard. I did a lot of listening and at one point I actually threw up my hands and said, “I have no friggin’ idea why I am here”.
And then I noticed that every time there was a prayer that said, “God loves You” the word You would ring in my ears. It actually tingled. And that tingle started to get annoying, so I continued to think “yea yea I know. God loves people”. And again, there would be this resounding “God loves you” in my head. It was weird and a bit terrifying.
As the retreat drug on through the night (we stayed in sleeping bags in the sanctuary) and then through the morning the call got louder. By the time the first part of the morning was over, it was screaming in my ears. And by what I can only assume was about 11am, there was a lightbulb that flipped on in my head.
“He loves me”
“He loves ME”
“HE LOVES ME”
I was so startled and taken aback by the acceptance of those thoughts in my head I started sobbing. It was like being given a hug by a close grandparent you haven’t seen in years. I was surrounded in warmth. And peace.
And for the first time in what has to have been almost 15 years, I realized that I was lovable. That I could love me. Because He loved me.
It was awesome. It still is awesome.
I’m unsure why we as humans struggle so much with this concept. Self love. What is that? Maybe it’s because we fall into the trap of using the world’s standards for love. Maybe it’s because we are hurting or because we let things get in the way of accepting God’s love for us. Maybe we’re just so angry we don’t want to love anyone, and that includes ourselves. I don’t know.
But I do know that He’s still here with us. He could have walked away from us long ago. But he persevered and stayed and struggled with us. He carries us. He guides us. He picks us up when we think we can go no more.
And that is a love that we should model our self love after.
I’m still struggling with it. I have good days where I find peace in that immediately. I have bad days where I still think about how I wish I were skinny, or more compassionate, or smarter and I get down on myself. There are even days where I partake in behaviors that are not healthy like meal skipping or negative thinking.
But so far, I’ve been able to remind myself that God loves me.
And if that’s all I have, that’s the best foundation a person could build on. It’s a truth I can embrace and lean on. It’s a beautiful gift.