“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but re­joices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

One of the most famous Bible verses ever writ­ten about love! It inspired people over the cen­turies from poets, writers, and various artists to create some of their most wonderful work. We hear it being read at weddings, funerals, and various gatherings and yet as soon as we finish reading it we forget that we did. It seems easier this way. We know that we fall short of it every single day. Does it even exist? It seems divine and mysterious and even though we don’t ful­ly understand it, it touches our hearts and we know it is true.

Can we experience this kind of love? Can we give something we do not have? And if we can have it, where do we find it?

“Above all, love each other deeply…” 1 Peter 4:8

Growing up with an alcoholic father was not easy. I learned very early on that my needs did not matter, and that everything and everybody came ahead of me. Something must have been wrong with me! Otherwise, my father wouldn’t choose to spend all of his time and money in a pub drinking with his friends. If only I behaved better, looked better, and worked a bit harder, maybe I would be worthy of his love and care that I so desperately needed. So, without even realising I became a people pleaser.

Putting other people’s needs ahead of my own felt natural. I never questioned it. After all, this is what “love” was. By “loving” other people and always being nice I somehow justified my need to be loved, accepted, and looked after. I earned my right to live, be happy, and be cared for. The only problem was it didn’t happen! No amount of hard work, giving, or pouring myself into other people was ever enough. It left me feeling lonely, empty, and burned out. My long­ing for peace, love, and approval was some­thing that transcended anything I could have ever given or received from other people no matter how much I tried. The endless cycle of disappointments, betrayals, and heartbroken­ness became normal and I didn’t know how to break out of it.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

In my desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Lord, what is wrong with me?” A still, small voice whispered, “You have been abused.”

Abused?!? Me, how? I don’t remember ever being abused. I wasn’t happy in my childhood and my childhood wasn’t nice, but abused? No, I don’t think so.

It took me a very long time and help to realise that neglect is abuse. Not being able to rely on my father for protection, provision, and guid­ance left me incredibly insecure, feeling that I was responsible for everything and everyone including him. That burden of responsibility was impossible to carry and my inability to ful­fill this role created enormous guilt, shame, and condemnation that trapped me for years.

Even after my profound spiritual encounter when I realised that God does exist, He does love me, and I am not alone, I wasn’t able to relate to Him innocently as a child would to his loving heavenly Father. I wasn’t able to rest in His love, provision, and care, I felt I had to earn it! My need for security, love, and protection was compensated yet again by “serving” God and other people. I knew God loved people and if I only served them well I would please Him and earn His love. Without even realising it, the wounds I carried from my childhood and the dysfunctional relationship I had with my earthly father were projected into my relationship with God.

In His infinite mercy and love, God patiently waited for me while I was running around work­ing, building, and serving other people. I pri­oritised my “good works” over my relationship with Him simply because I didn’t feel worthy of His love and presence. I didn’t know how to re­ceive it and I certainly didn’t know how to give it back. Being in His presence scared me. I knew His love and light would shine upon all the dark areas of my heart and I didn’t want that. It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling and I didn’t want Him to see me in my im­perfections and brokenness. Self-condemnation, shame, and guilt gripped me yet again and I was happy to only have a long-distance relationship with God. He wasn’t, though, and I am forever grateful for that.

After years of running around on empty, I finally came to a stop. I had nothing more to give. Not to God and not to other people. Total emptiness. I came to the end of myself. For me, this was a di­saster but for God, His work was just beginning. I was exactly where He wanted me to be. Alone and with Him. I couldn’t run any more. I had to face Him and I had to face myself.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and bur­dened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

There are no words to describe being in the pres­ence of God. He is so holy, so pure, so loving, and full of light. The more I was spending time with Him the more I realised that I was the ex­act opposite. His presence brought up all the dirt and darkness stored deeply in my heart. The pain, anger, insecurities, jealousies, and con­demnations all started bubbling up in me and I felt so unworthy of being with Him. My natural inclination was to run away again, but this time He didn’t let me. There was nowhere to go. He didn’t want anything from me. He knew all about me. He just wanted to be with me. I couldn’t un­derstand why!

“Because I love you” the still, small voice whis­pered. Hearing those words made me feel em­barrassed. I had never experienced this kind of unconditional love before. I didn’t know how to receive it. I didn’t even know if I could. His pres­ence was revealing things in me, stored deeply in my heart, not to condemn me or to embarrass me, but to free me. Soon enough I realised He was healing me. He was making room for some­thing new. He was making room for His love to be poured into my heart until I overflowed.

This changed everything! For the first time, I didn’t try to earn being loved. I knew I couldn’t. God loved me because this is who He is. He is love. There was nothing I could ever do to earn or lose His love. This brought rest and a peace I never knew existed. I started truly loving and accepting myself, but not in the narcissistic way of competing, comparing, or trying to be better than others. I started truly loving and accepting myself simply because, imperfect as I am, I am His. I belong to love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one anoth­er.” John 13:34

Loving other people suddenly became easy. For­giving them even easier. I could finally truly love. I could freely love others. There was nothing that I needed. Whether they loved me back or not, liked me, or disliked me, it truly didn’t matter. I was loved, accepted, and looked after eternally by my heavenly Father. This gave me the strength to truly forgive those who hurt me. From the bottom of my renewed heart, I forgave my earthly father for not loving me the way he should have. Now I know that he couldn’t give me something he didn’t have.

Because of this love, in the name of Him, who is love, let us all find rest in His everlasting arms.


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