Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Growing up, I don’t recall giving a lot of thought to the idea of love. I just knew that I loved my parents and my sisters. I loved my grandparents and my aunts, uncles and my cousins. My love for these people has been a truth that has never changed. I have only ever struggled with three other loves in my life. I struggled with the ability to love myself. I didn’t think I had the capability of loving a man enough to settle down. The love that I was most challenged with was developing an authentic love for God. What made love so challenging for me is that I never quite understood what it was, not fully anyway. Don’t get me wrong; I come from a huge, beautiful extended family that is sharing and caring, which is probably why I had no problem understanding that I loved them and that they loved me. However, in the other areas, it took me a while to learn and understand the true meaning or function of agape love.
I was aware that Jesus died for my sins because he loved me, however, I didn’t fully comprehended what that meant. Everybody that I knew still considered themselves sinners, even though they were saved by grace. I felt guilty every time I sinned according to the Ten Commandments. There were some things I did that I thought were unforgivable. For example, I tolerated tremendous stress and turmoil during the completion of a project. I had worked diligently for several long days and nights, for months, to complete this huge undertaking. What was supposed to be a happy time turned out to be frustrating. I had endured the drama of dealing with personalities that I had never been forced to work with in such close proximity, including people who were malicious, unloyal, and disrespectful. When it was all over I was angry and fatigued. At the conclusion of the event, in front of a large audience, I thanked everyone except God. In hindsight, I felt like I had been blatantly disrespectful. As a result, I rationalized that I had let God down in a major way and that He was angry. Surely, He couldn’t love me any more.
Concerning men, although I wanted to eventually commit, I didn’t trust them. I found myself drawn to men who were too clingy and ready to settle down immediately, or who were self-centered and emotionally unavailable. Looking back, it makes sense why I would find myself involved with those kinds of men, because it gave me an excuse to exit the relationship. When either I felt like things were getting too serious or I felt like the guy didn’t count me a priority, I moved on with no regard.
Regarding myself, how could I have properly loved myself when I didn’t even understand who I was. I was born the middle child. My oldest sister was a great conversationalist and my youngest sister, was the “baby,” and seemed to easily get a pass from being punished when she misbehaved. Because of my position between them, I felt like I wasn’t really special or worthy of attention. As my personality developed, it made sense to me to sit back and just try to blend in. As a matter of fact, I spent most of my life shrinking from attention and staying to myself. As a child I found comfort discovering my own space and humming my favorite songs. When I became a bestselling author, I learned to appear confident and comfortable in my skin, but it was during the ten years that I spent most of my time traveling the U. S. as a public speaker and author that I was most lost and unsure of who I really was. I liked a lot of things about myself, but I was critical of my flaws, and I never loved myself enough to choose my needs over the needs of other people.
My journey to gaining a better understanding of true love has been bittersweet. The bitter has been challenging; including me choosing to give my life to Christ, not because of my love for him or His for me, but after having my first anxiety attack, or the ridiculously unnecessary arguments that my husband and I found ourselves in during the first part of our relationship. The sweet has been the best experiences I could ever dream of having, including giving birth, getting to the other side of the power struggle and finding real love with my husband, spending intimate time with my parents and siblings, raising three beautiful children, and most important of all, realizing the depth of God’s love for me.
When I became a student of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I gained a deeper understanding of agape love. I completely accept that God’s love for me is unconditional and that there is nothing I can do bad or good to make him stop loving me. With that understanding firmly planted in my being, I have a new outlook on the way that I see others and myself. I grasp that we all are flawed and in need of a savior. However, it is not only on each of us to receive, appreciate and walk in the truth that our savior loves us so much that he died and was resurrected so we can have abundant life, but also to study to comprehend the magnitude of what that really means for us.
God’s sweet love now sustains me, even through the toughest of times. It is what has strengthened my marriage and helped me to be a better parent. It has also helped me to know exactly who I am through Christ. Finding my identity has allowed me to love myself through my flaws. It has helped me, despite anyone’s opinion of me, to appreciate my quirks and to be so much more comfortable in my own skin. Today I happily embrace abundant life filled with love, joy and peace.
1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.