Have you ever shared something you were struggling with and felt worse instead of better?
I have. I would share with someone how I was struggling, whether it was with my own self-image, or trying to live the good Christian life, whatever it was. Often the answer was something along the lines of, "just receive God's love".
I wanted to scream or slap them. I wanted to scream, "If I knew how to do that, don't you think I'd be doing it already?" (maybe part of that was it took being pretty desperate for me to ask for help, but that's another topic)
I didn't know how to say they made it worse. It seemed so incredibly obvious that I should just know how to receive God's love. If I wasn't doing it then it had to be because I wasn't trying hard enough, I wasn't being sincere, I wasn't letting God love me. Those things that just weren't helpful at all!
They added more condemnation, shame, and confirmation of the deeply rooted belief I had that I was somehow uniquely screwed up. There was something wrong with me and that wasn't wrong with anybody else. That had to be why all these things worked for other people didn't work for me. I'm beyond hope. I'm way too screwed up. There's part of me that still believes that sometimes.
Receiving God's love didn't come naturally for me. To receive God's love, first I had to take it on faith. That's how we have a relationship with the Lord at all, through faith. He said that He loved me enough to die for me and I choose to believe that whether I feel it or not. When I come across verses that say God has loved me with an everlasting love I can say, "Okay, I don't feel it. I don't get it, but I'm going to trust that it's true."
That was where I started, but I don't think that's where God wants us to stay and it's not where He's had me stay. I somehow got the idea love was performance. Love was based on behavior, excellence. It wasn't unconditional, it was earned. I know the scriptural truth of God's love being unconditional. He loves me no matter what. I know that, but that's different than being able to receive his love, I think. Knowing that what I had as a definition of love wasn't love was one part, learning what love actually is was another part. I need to know what love is so that I knew when I received it.
I didn't sleep well thinking about this. Something has stuck and unclear what is it? And I said, not feeling clear on how to explain learning or why you might not know how. Love takes practice and faith. It takes learning what love really is and how it feels for you.
I tend to not trust my own experience of emotions. Someone asks, "Did you have fun?" I don't answer. I automatically try and figure out what their version of fun would be and then evaluate whether I had fun or not based on what I think their definition is. (Can you say exhausting?) Instead of asking myself, did I enjoy that? Was it good? Okay then yes, I had fun. I do the same with love.
I'm still not always sure that I feel your love, but I've come to trust it more.
I've been convinced for so long that I'm fatally flawed, that I don't trust how I feel and don't know of how I define it.
I know when You're speaking and sometimes I know when You're near, but I don't know how to describe what I feel. I think I need to do it on others terms.
God said, "You don't learn what love feels like when emotions aren't honored."
My parents didn't grow up in homes that honored emotions and therefore they didn't have any tools. And so emotions weren't honored in my growing up either. And as a result of that, so no blame, no condemnation, it just was. And a result of that is not knowing what emotions feel like and not knowing how to receive them as well as not how to express them.
"Love feels like being known, being seen, being heard, knowing you matter." And then He said, "You were loved by your parents, but it was a love you had to believe in not feel."
We can't base our faith on what we feel, relationships most definitely involve emotion. God didn't create us as emotional creatures for relationship to say that emotions don't matter. Emotions can never define our faith, but they matter.
If you've been in a relationship with someone where you have to believe that they love you, you can do it, but it's not fun. It's better to experience their love.