So the past week, I was reflecting on how much emotional and mental stretching I have experienced in the last year. And it’s funny cos late last year, I had said the same thing about how far I thought I had come, LOL. And I guess that’s the thing with growth: it’s constant. Some of the lessons I learnt last year, I recorded in Loving Me, What I’ve Learnt in 2018… and Surrendering Doesn’t Always Mean Defeat. It’s funny because the lessons captured in each of those posts are kind of a “set up” or building blocks of sorts to the one particular lesson I want to hone in on in this post. Loving Me is pretty self-explanatory and it sets up the proper foundation for Lesson 2 in What I’ve Learnt in 2018, which is that loving people hurts and it’s an exercise in maturity, stretching and perfect imperfection. Lesson 1 (Patience) in What I’ve Learnt in 2018 is the constant in my life. Yep. God is still busy with me on that! So that does not even bear mentioning. But in terms of loving self and loving others, I’ll tie these two together a little further down. Bear with me.
This year, in addition to patience and surrender to God in general, the experiences I have gone through have been those of a faith-deepening kind. Seasons of testing will and are meant to do that, such that what one must do in the midst of it all is firmly hold onto God’s spoken (rhema) word and the promises in His Word in order to get through. It is never easy. But such is the testing, refining and maturing of our faith. You go through twists and turns, highs and lows, darkness and confusion, and a LOT of unknowing, all to develop that ability to hold onto Him despite it all. I was listening to Pastor Tony Evans and in that particular series, he speaks about the fact that sometimes, God can call you into something – and you can hear Him loudly call you into it – and then you (happily I might add) answer the call and accept the invite. But then, a little ways into your journey, things go south. Black; lights out; Houston we have a problem types of mess. Yes, God can lead you/get you into troubles friends – granted for His own purposes (which are to teach a lesson, show His might and strengthen your faith), but He’s been known to do that. This is/has been me – that kind of faith deepening experience and growth.
Along the way, other lessons are being learnt too. The one that has been emphasized or placed centre stage through this time has been the expanding of my heart and a redefining of my understanding of the term/concept of love. I think God has “for some reason”, decided that I needed to learn (really learn) about love. And well, all I can say is “u-woah!!!!” Love is complex and comes in several forms. But whatever its form, what I have come to keenly appreciate is that in order for it to be real/pure, it must be unfettered and free of conditions. This kind of love, pure love, is not easy. God has taught me to strip my love of any conditions. Let me repeat that – God has taught me to strip my love of any conditions. God has literally broken down, episode by episode of this growing and stretching season, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. And all I can say is “Grrrr!!!” What’s been most interesting has been how He has shown/taught me that love has no pride; how loving people isn’t about loving them half-heartedly, hiding behind our walls, and giving only as much as we get In so doing, He is essentially debunking this very selfish thinking of loving people only insofar as what they can do for you, and instead changing the thinking, intent and action to what you loving them represents, which is honour. To love someone in the truest manner of love (as per love Himself, i.e. God) is to honour them. It is not about you but about them. It is being empty of self – it is the next level of “enlightenment”. When you realise that the better good isn’t necessarily loving yourself, but loving others and loving them “accordingly”, it shows that you are enough in yourself to love someone without any FEAR because even if they reject that gesture, it will NOT diminish you or your sense of self. Often we love those that love us back. And yes, we should. And pride is good to a degree (checks and balances of sorts). Also, no one wants to be in a situation where the love is one-sided, but that’s a slightly different kind of circumstance. I’m talking about loving people you are in some form of relationship with and loving them wholly and purely. In How to Forgive, I spoke about God pointing me to Matthew 5:44. That scripture says “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” And in this instance, that is not to say that people you are in relationship with will be so vile. No. One can interpret that scripture to mean “love people even when it bruises your ego and is not easy”. If you want to experience “real love”, it is found in loving people the way Christ loves us.
And this is applicable across the board – family, friends, associates etc. And IT IS NOT EASY. Because we are often hung up on ourselves – we are often not completely there in terms of loving ourselves. And so we compensate by being totally into ourselves or loving selfishly. And so, yes – the number one rule is to love thyself first. Which is why Jesus said “Love thy neighbour AS thyself”, implying that you take the cue as to how to love said neighbour from how you love yourself. And so you see how the lesson in Loving Me connects with Lesson 2 in What I’ve Learnt in 2018? And when you’re here, at loving others freely, it is where you can then begin to be at ease with yourself enough to look within and begin to do some of the work of fixing brokenness insofar as relational aspects of life are concerned. You fix conceptualisations (like how you’re SUPPOSED to be loved), debunk certain ideals (like what a “perfect relationship” or person looks like), unlearn terrible (sorry had to be said) defence mechanisms (e.g. shutting down/arrogance) and especially, unravelling destructive and injurious ways of being in relationship by going to their core and confronting them to root them out. THAT PART! And this can happen in relationships only when we have gotten to that point where we ‘cut the act’ (you know how we all act supercool, like we couldn’t love anyone any more than it would require us to die to self – yep, guilty!) and just get on with the business of loving…unrestrained. When you aren’t all wrapped up in trying to flex (to/for yourself and others) and you begin to inhabit humility, and love as humility, you free yourself to do the work of debunking, unleashing, releasing, redefining, and correcting and healing.
It is the hang ups of wanting to love selfishly and proudly that slow down the very necessary work of unlearning and even proceeding to healing. Because, let’s be straight- ain’t no perfect person alive, and if you’re waiting to only let your guard down to a perfect person, hahaha – keep dreaming! People will always hurt you. Again, people will always hurt you. You can be relating with someone and they go and do something and BOOM, even unintended, you’re hurt – in places you didn’t even know you were sensitive in. So there you go. And yes, we’ve had this discussion before about what’s acceptable and what isn’t, but actually, people may hurt us in the most unthinkable ways, and we may still be called to love them. Love never fails. Remember 1 Corinthians 13? Verse 8 to be specific. The trick is to be sufficient and whole in self so that you can still show up in potentially hazardous situations (we’re all fragile but also all with a need to be loved and a responsibility to love) and do what must be done. I will leave it up to you to decide when something stops being deserving of you showing up – but generally, everyone’s threshold is so low nowadays, so check yourself on that. When we know that there is nothing that any other human could do to or give us (not even love) that could alter our intrinsic worth, we are in a position to freely give love, with absolutely no expectations of any reciprocity. Granted, we also risk possible (crushing) disappointment (and love is brave because there is always the possibility/inevitability of loss in some form) – but that’s par for the course here.
So not that one has fully gotten this lesson on love. I am tested on it daily. And I don’t know how I’m faring. But onwards and upwards, hehehe! God retests until we pass. And that’s faxts! But yes, growth man. It’s interesting. And as I was reflecting on this particular aspect of my growth, the poem below came to me. I guess you can call it ‘When You’ve Done the Work”. Think of it as a means of recognising and praising those that do the work. And when you do the work, it’s often hard to deal with people that aren’t on any sort of path of improvement. And again, no – I haven’t mastered much of it, and so I am not dissing anyone – I am just applauding (and encouraging) those that do the work for themselves. Because that ish is not easy. At all. It takes a lot of looking into your ugly self, your hurt self, your child self, your buried self, your bruised ego self and staring those versions dead in the face, for as long as need be, with many tears and the acceptance and swallowing of many hard and long-ignored truths. Yeah. It’s like going into a brutal war zone with yourself. You gotta kill someone before someone kills you and all the people are you. Simple. Or not right. So you see why acknowledging the doing of the work is important.
What are your experiences with loving others? Any prudent lessons to share? And more generally, what personal work are you doing/undergoing? Please share in the comments below. What are some really cool insights you’ve drawn from the process and what re the changes, in you and in your life?
When you’ve done your work
Dug deep into your black, wretched & deeply traumatic past
When you’ve reconciled that life didn’t always deal you a fair hand
That you were mis-loved at times
Miseducated about your worth because of others’ actions
When you accept that some things
You were told or taught yourself were acceptable or right behavioural patterns
Were actually lies & destructive patterns
And emotional and mental mechanisms
That would in future trip you up
Hinder your growth and blind you
When you decided to go deep into your psyche
Because you wanted to return to your complete and pure self
Because you wanted and deserved an opportunity
To be cleansed, healed and whole.
When you decided to stop lying to yourself
And get out of your own way – because you matter
When you held on for dear life to that serendipitous spark of self-love
And rode the wave to self-reconciliation
Reconciling what life tried to make you
With who God says you are
Fearless, unafraid to love and fully comfortable in vulnerability – your vulnerability
Your tears, your fears, your ability to hurt and lose
Yes, learning to sit in that fully and surely
Because still, even in that, even that
Does not erase or take away what you have learned and grown to become: Unflinchingly assured of your power
And unwaveringly rooted in your inexpungable worth
You have learned that love, vulnerability and power are not mutually exclusive – they co-exist
And a beautiful life is one that has struck that balance
One that doesn’t shy away from any or rely exclusively on one of these
For fear of ‘feeling’ or seeming diminished
That is self-esteem
When you do this work FOR YOU, you have broken through
You are the strong one, the beautiful one, the transformed one, the one closest to truth
When you do this work
Don’t let those that are still imprisoned and lying to themselves set you back…
You are free…