I curled my hands around the cup of coffee and watched the steam peel slowly upwards. Its funny how sometimes, it takes some-one else to name a thing to make it real for you.
“I don’t mean different in a bad way,” she said carefully. “It’s definitely different in a good way. I don’t know – you crack more jokes. You’re funnier… You’re more relaxed I guess.”
I stared hard into my cup and let her words sink in. The steam kept on winding gently upwards, and I felt myself begin to slowly unwind. The knot of anxiety that I had for too long called friend was unfurling inside of me. Perhaps it had been for a while now.
And that change that she saw? That was the safety that I now felt.
Safe to be who I was, without any front or attitude. Safe to let my guard down and let people in. Safe to take a risk and put myself out there. And yes, perhaps to crack more jokes. To be more fun. To not care so much about what people thought of me.
Love at it’s best can make us feel safe. Accepted. Unafraid.
You see, when we’re loved, we feel secure enough in who we are on the inside to make ourselves vulnerable to those around us on the outside.
The core of us is strong enough to take the risk, because the core of us is healthy. Nourished. Built up.
And we stop striving, straining to be enough, to be the person that we think those around us want us to be, and just be ourselves.
And the irony is, all that striving and straining to second-guess and meet someone else’s need and be something to please someone so that they will love us and cherish us and make us feel safe is nearly always a million times more risky and less safe than just being ourselves in the first place; because our real, authentic self is always better than anything we can try to be anyway, and no-one ever properly and fully loved a shadow of a person; an imitation, a part-person.
For those beautiful girls growing up under my roof, if I could tell them one thing and know that just that one thing would stick with them always, if I could impart one small and precious stone of wisdom and know they would keep it and treasure it and it would be their anchor and their rudder throughout this tumultuous thing we call life, it would be this:
Know that who you are is who God made you to be. That no matter what anyone says about how you look, you are made in his image; as beautiful and perfect today as you were on the day you were born, and will be on the day that you die. That it never was and never will be about what you wear, what you achieve, what car you drive or what you earn.That you are a daughter of the king and you will always have a home in the throne room of heaven. That he sings over you with joy; rejoices over you; loves you. And that because of that, you need never fear rejection. You are fully free to be everything that you were made to be. Laugh. Love freely. Do not be afraid that you need to meet some one else’s expectations or gain someone else’s approval in order to be happy.
The world is full of busted-up people that bust up other people because they don’t know who they are and have never felt fully loved and fully safe and fully free to be all that they were made to be. The cycle of the human need to be accepted and loved carves such deep scars in even the toughest and most hardened of hearts; even those whose shells, from the outside, look bombproof and impenetrable.
And so we tread carefully, knowing that we too carry scars. Strive to love each other even when love hurts. Give grace. And – attempt, somehow – to live in the truth of who we truly are.
Loved. Precious. Accepted.
“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, 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. Love never fails.”
The Bible (1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-8)
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