Lessons in Love

By Gwen Sellers

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Recently a friend challenged me regarding my self-esteem, questioning why it was low. It caught me a bit off guard. I've known my struggles with low self-esteem and even come up with explanations for it. But this time, instead of going to my easy excuses, I actually wondered about it myself. Why do I sometimes think that I'm not worthy of other peoples' love? So I asked God. Faithful as ever, He revealed a few messages I've latched on to and falsehoods I've adopted into my identity. Interestingly, He's used the whole process to work on other things in me as well.

The first has to do with trust and control. A different friend and I were talking about these issues and how it seems that control is often a struggle for women. I know it certainly is for me. I would like to control my life, at least in the sense of minimizing pain. This desire for control manifests itself in the things about which I worry, the career and financial decisions I make, and, primarily, in how I go about relating to others. For instance, if I sense that someone doesn't care about me, I'm likely to feel the urge to not care about them first. Sometimes I pretend I am just "guarding my heart." But, let's be honest, I'm protecting myself because I don't trust God to. The Bible is replete with reminders of God's love. Paul writes to the Romans, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32). How is it that I trust God for salvation — to have actually come to earth, taken on the limitations of humanity, experienced the complete reality of our fallen lives, taken on the full burden of my sin, then invited me to accept His free gift of grace, all without me doing anything to earn it or maintain it but simply because He is God and He is jealous for me — and then not trust Him with my heart in daily matters? The sillier thing is that I have been through difficult circumstances before. I have experienced rejection and heartache. And God has brought me through it, even redeemed the situations and worked them for my good (Romans 8:28). I can honestly attest to many things that were hard or seemed horrible at the time for which I am now truly grateful. But when the opportunity to risk my heart comes again, I sometimes default to panic. I have thrilled to the exhilaration of knowing God's growth and being part of His adventure; yet when He invites me to another adventure, I shy away. It seems crazy, but I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. And I know God is reminding me that He is in control. He knows the plans. He loves me. He is going to bring me Home (Philippians 1:6). It might hurt sometimes, but He's the one who guards my heart. He's the one who comforts and purifies and strengthens and protects and grows. So, yes, I am worth being loved because I am a beloved daughter of God (not to mention the fact that all humans are worthy of love by virtue of being created in the image of God, loved by Him, and being those whom He desires to save). And it is worth risking my heart because, really, my heart is only secure in God anyway. My protective measures just keep me from experiencing real life.

The other thing God has been working on is my own treatment of others. While He shows me that I am worth loving, He's showing me that other people are too. You see, when you think that maybe all you're really going to get or are really worthy of are scraps of love, you tend to want to only give scraps to everyone else. When you're busy protecting your own heart, you don't have any heart to give away. When you're drawn into your own efforts to earn love, you have no energy left to really love. Rejecting others first seems safer than being rejected. Thinking that other people are only going to give me the leftovers makes me want to hoard my own love. If I give it away, I fear nothing will be left for me. If I show my own vulnerability, I fear I'll end up embarrassed, exposed as the fool, hurt. I admit I have treated other people the way I've expected to be treated. I have failed to pause and really listen to them. I have not valued or respected their time. I have acted as if I am too busy or too cool to really invest in them because I think I need to present myself as something other than who I really am. That's just wrong.

Continued on Page Two

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Published on 7-17-2014