Have you ever been loved, really loved…unconditionally? Loved so completely that when I mention it you can conjure it up in your mind, you remember it like it was yesterday. The way it made you feel safe, whole, secure.
I was her “Angle” and it seemed with her I could do no wrong (practically). My Grandma would re-cap stories from our childhoods every visit, over mountains of our favorite dishes (mine enchiladas) and all night games of UNO and Yahtzee
In one particular incident of “nose walling”, I had gotten to this point by way of wrapping a long pair of my ‘Old’(great) Grandma’s pearls around my neck about four times and then breaking them.
Now I don’t barely remember this story in actual memory but because of the way my grandma would recall the incident of how I came into the kitchen, looking at them both, beads around my neck, pulling them breaking them, saying “it cuts off my breathes” then laughing, her full belly shaking laugh. Seeing myself as the child through these loving grandparents eyes and as my silly kid self really just wanting nothing more than to always please my grandma.
I got the wall after that, not because I had stopped myself from suffocating but because I had gotten into grandma’s things without them knowing. When the phrase “put your nose on the wall” happened (which was not frequent) I don’t remember it with disdain. She would sit there opposite of where ever I was. Never with an air of ultimate authority but there; there for me. It was hard for her to ever discipline us. She made us understand fully the importance of right and wrong (not in you but what you do) respect and disrespect (for yourself and for others)
I never wanted to disappoint grandma because I respected her, I respected her because I knew she loved me, appreciated and never judged me. These things she did not do in large noticeable feats but instead in small subtle movements with no judgment and loads and loads of compassion for her fellow. “She made me feel tall (not just her 4’11 stature) but taller, that I could not only do anything great, but that I was destined for it”.
When my Grandma was dying in the hospital I studied her face, wanting to burn every drop of her essence into me so I would never forget. It is one of the greatest loves I have ever known. I moistened her lips and washed her face to keep her comfortable as I could. It was overwhelming but good to finally give and care for her when she needed it as she had done for me and so many all her life. My Grandma was strong and a fighter she did not give in easily. We made it okay for her to sleep, we told her we would be okay. I had just turned twenty-five earlier that month, and I climbed up on my grandmothers hospital bed and lay my head on her chest for what I knew would be the last time and let that moment seep into me. At twenty-five I instantly became two years old in the sense that I was my pure unblemished self. I was were I had been always and only loved.
If you can’t think of anyone that loved you in that way, that’s OK. I’m sure it doesn’t feel “OK” when you, like me, are racking your brain trying to pull up one person in our lives like Mariia’s Grandma. One person that gave you that feeling of real love.
For some of you, this may be easy. You have already thought of so many people you’ve lost count… your parents, grandparents, teachers, aunts, uncles and the list goes on.
And some of you thought you had the real thing, only to find out something you *did* cut you off from that love…your sexuality, your truth telling, your politics, your religion.
So, all of us in this room have experienced something either of real love, no love, or a counterfeit. I want you to try and hold these experiences with you while I tell you my recent story connected to love. Why do I want you to do this? Because maybe, just maybe, there is a bit of real love that you hadn’t noticed before or holding this experience, however painful, in this place with others (that are holding their own pain) will possibly give you the strength to look at your “relationship” with Love.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about a particular relationship that is hard most of the time. In this relationship, I feel like I can’t say or do anything right and I don’t usually get what I want. It is also not a relationship that I am going to give up on. There is history here and I am committed.
I was walking the other day – taking this up with God – and wondering if there was something I could do other than pray. Maybe something practical I was missing because: confrontation backfires, advice doesn’t work and I end up feeling like my fists are up and I’m always blocking this person’s jabs. My list is long with what is not working, and very short on what *is*. In my frustration, I said to God: HOW CAN I BE LOVING IN THIS? WHAT IS THE LOVING THING HERE? In a split second, I heard God softly say: “this person doesn’t know what real love is and you do.” Now this may seem silly to you, but I saw my friend’s entire life flash before my eyes, all the empty promises given to them, all the counterfeits believed and I was filled with compassion for them. I also realized that the little I have experienced of love is still more than this person has experienced. And that *lack* comes out in distrust of me, needing to control our relationship, and not hearing my true heart. My loving thing needs to be reminding this person through my actions that I absolutely love them- no matter what.
Let me pause to remind you…
- This is not me advocating staying in an abusive situation
- Or you being a doormat
…Because sometimes the most loving thing we can do is leave an unhealthy situation.
That said, what does this look like for me, or for you?
This is a hard one. I fit into the category of being very familiar with the counterfeit of love; which is conditional, manipulative, moody, withholding, full of “if’s”, “if you do this I will love you, if you do that I won’t”.
But the little I have experienced of love (or have let myself experience love) seems to be the antithesis of something conditional.
Love doesn’t put conditions on itself, and has no expectations of what it should get in return. It does not possess what it loves or dictate to it what it wants and needs.
Go back to what you are holding. Sit with it. Look at it. Be in the moment with it. It’s normal to be afraid to honestly look at what is potentially painful in our lives. What you’re holding – is it the real love you thought it was? Was it a counterfeit love all along? If it was real, was it hard for you to trust it?
The freedom to explore truly and brutally what love has been for us (without being overly suspicious) gives us permission to find out what love really is and look honestly at how we are giving this love to others.
I have experienced real love in my relationship with Todd and I have experienced real love in my relationship with my Creator. The disconnect, for me, is my difficulty in trusting this love. It isn’t whether the love is real or not, it lies in my ability to trust it, lean into it.
I am what is standing in the way of this receiving!
This is always the point – where my inability to naturally get something, makes me want to crawl into a hole and beat myself up.
What Knowledge can I gain from withholding criticism in this moment? I am refusing to turn this against myself.
I am a product of the environment I was raised in…
I don’t have to stay here…
I have benefited from counseling, intensive journaling, transformational groups and so much more to maintain growth in my life.
Like everything else, receiving and giving love is a process. I can say I love Todd better than I did when we were first married. Why? Because I have grown and yielded to the process of loving.
There is a learning curve involved. I can’t do this on my own. I need to watch you love yourself, love each other and love God, if I am going to continue to grow into this. I learn about love from my children, from Todd, from this community, and daily being reconverted to new understandings of God.
Love is the most important thing.
Jesus says: “‘Love God with everything you’ve got, with everything that is within you heart, soul and mind.’ ‘Love everyone else as yourself. All the other things I’m telling you hang on this.” (Adaption mine)
Julian of Norwich Body Prayer
Await: Stand with hands open
Allow: Hands Riased
Accept: Hands Near together near Chest
Attend: Hands held open to receive