The Truth About Love

I can’t speak for every adopted kid, but I can tell you that I personally don’t remember a time without lies about love running through my head.

They were elaborate, razor sharp, and welded a dark cage around my mind, heart, and soul before I even had a fair chance at fighting back.

They shifted shapes and appeared through various internal and external means, but they all derived from the same basic beat.

You. Are. Unlovable. You. Were. Nobody’s. First. Choice. You. Were. A. Mistake.

They persisted despite my parents’ loving me dearly and the loving sacrifice my biological mother made to give me life.

The facts are:

  • My parents adopted me after losing their first, biologically born child, because they wanted a baby.
  • My birth mother gave me away.
  • Sometimes I still have to fight intentionally, usually invoking the help of the Holy Spirit to see Truth, rather than hear lies about these statements.

And, while I spent a good amount of my life unaware of, and thus defenseless against, the damage being inflicted against my soul, God never once took his eyes off of me or allowed me to fully succumb to that which sought to destroy me.

If you go back up and re-read the lies that held me captive, you will see what made them such effective weapons…hiding in plain sight. Right in the middle of two outlandish lies is an almost truth. My parents, adopted and biological, did not plan on me, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t want me.

However, I have always been God’s first choice. Jesus went to the cross with me on his heart. He knew everything about my personality, what would become my history, and every sinful, shameful thing I would manage to engage in during my lifetime. And, He still chose me.

God doesn’t make mistakes, so you and I couldn’t possibly be one, no matter how much effort we might put towards convincing ourselves otherwise.

He loves every single one of his creations, including you. Including me. Those are facts and our world will be a better place the sooner we accept them. Once we do, we can get to work on figuring out how such a love works and how we should respond to it. Spoiler alert—the right response is to share it.

Over the last year, I have felt the familiar entangling of almost truths and blatant dark lies, attempting to take God’s children captive.

Perhaps you have felt it too—a focused effort to disrupt relationships and unity within friendships, families, church bodies. I spent a good amount of the last nine months trying to wrap my mind around it, a process increased in difficulty each time I stumbled into sinful reactions, and self-centered emotions. However, God is always faithful and last week He sent me a breakthrough in the form of an overdue walk and conversation with a dear friend.

Real friends tell you the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.

This is an act of love. Over the course of our walk, where I spoke about the intersection of love and the pain I was feeling and the pain I had caused (which ironically, causes me pain), this friend told me the truth. By holding onto the pain, I was giving it power.

I don’t want to go back to giving pain power to write my story.

I made a desperate choice when I asked God to lead my life, believing that He could redeem pain and re-purpose it for good. He has done just that, time after time. I can’t quite figure out when I decided the pain of the last year was beyond His reach, and truthfully it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I have confessed the weakness of my faith to my Heavenly Father and am fighting harder to follow Him out of the pain and into Love.

I’m not upset, because I know that love costs us something. To quote a favorite song by NF,

“If you want love, you gonna have to go through the pain.
If you want love, you gonna have to learn how to change.
If you want trust, you gonna have to give some away.”

I want love, in fact, I have love—from God, my family, and my friends. And there is enough to share.

I am learning the truth about love; that it’s capable of balancing the tensions of pain, anger, distance, disconnect, disagreement, regret, and remorse.

I am learning the truth about love; that it’s not a positive emotional state that effortlessly happens for a “normal” family—and that it’s normal for our sinful natures to make love feel more complicated than it is.

I am learning the truth about love; that it has to be fought for.

I am learning the truth about love; that it leaves the door open for future reconciliation even when a boundary has to be held.

Boundaries are what protects love from the slow blistering of bitterness, resentment and contempt.

I was an adult, beginning my recovery process when I learned about the power and necessity of good boundaries. Boundaries are not walls—which keep people from connecting with one another in a meaningful way.

I think of holding boundaries as choosing to exist inside a beautiful mason jar. Boundaries allow me to be fully seen and fully see others, but they provide an emotional, spiritual, and physical space that keeps me from putting my junk in others’ lives and vice versa.

Holding boundaries takes a lot of effort, especially in the beginning. Respecting others’ boundaries is also challenging. Both get easier with practice.

Boundaries are not static—they can create more or less space depending on what the relationship calls for.

This is amazing, because you can bring people super close to you. It is also tricky because familiarity and trust can lead you to forget that they are necessary in the first place.

At some point, I got overly confident in my ability to hold and respect appropriate boundaries—hence the pain from the last year, and the months of needing boundaries to maintain a lot of space between the world and I.

I can feel the boundaries shrinking back these days.

I can feel my faith growing, and along with it my courage and willingness to be vulnerable. I am feeling a larger variety of emotions, and am more quickly able to identify what I need in order to move past the annoying, inconvenient, painful ones. I am relenting in my resistance to God’s steady rhythm calling me toward self-love.

The feelings of my heart and beliefs of my soul are coming into alignment with what my mind knows to be true.

God’s love is undeniable, and capable of overcoming anything, even death.

He uses broken people to elevate His voice, a voice that proclaims love wherever it is heard.

I’m invited to be one of those people; and while His love knows no limits, my ability to love others is absolutely limited by my ability and willingness to love myself.

Self-love is so much more than a trendy social media hashtag.

It is foundational in doing Kingdom work for the Glory of God.

It’s less about #treatyoself and more about accepting the gifts of love and salvation God has given us in the form of Jesus’ bleeding out on the cross so that we can access the power of the Holy Trinity.

It’s less about Instagram stories filled with perfect vacations and more about saying no to the demands of a culture addicted to worshiping the false idols of busy and comparison.

It’s less about sharing our highlight reel with our followers and more about following the light He shines from within us to escape our own darkness, bringing others along with us as we stumble along.

And, let’s tell one another the truth. We are all just stumbling along, aren’t we?

Try as we might, there is no short cutting love. If I am learning anything about love, it’s that it requires hard work to give and receive it as intended.

We approach this hard work by simply doing the next right thing in love.

I learned about doing the next right thing at the same time I started learning about boundaries, from the prayer read aloud at the beginning of every recovery meeting. The first part of the serenity prayer is almost cliché, but the second half gets me every time.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next

The truth about Love is that it’s an act, not an emotion.

It is also a choice. Right now, the Christian faith community has a choice to make about what to believe about love. There are an awful lot of half truths floating around out there, seeking to ensnare God’s people—the very people who should understand self-sacrificial love more than the rest of the world—into a cage that looks like comfort, power, and influence.

This cage has been crafted with the sole purpose of separating God’s children from their power to share His love with the world.

It feels like scarcity. It feels like selfishness. It feels lonely even though it’s crowded. It feels like uncontrollable sobbing and near panic attacks over lost relationships that crossed boundaries.

And I for one, want out.

Father, forgive us for a faulty faith.

Speak the truth of your love, in every aspect of our lives, louder than the almost truths that allow lies to slip into the brokenness of our sinful human hearts, setting up traps for our souls.

Help us to honor your name, your gospel, and your commandment to love others in a way that demonstrates sacrifice.

Open our eyes to those among us who have no intention of bearing your fruit, who would use the term Christian to cover ungodly beliefs that manifest into ungodly actions—and free us from their influence.

Continue convicting those of us who find ourselves dangerously close to the cage the enemy is attempting to construct around us, give us the courage and the wisdom to resist.

Test our hearts with the truth of your love before we speak, share, or act in your name.

Amen.

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