“I still love you,” I half-whispered, while unwanted tears streamed down my face with my own arms wrapped tightly around myself as if they knew how I yearned to be protected, to be held. There I stood, still crushed – years later – by the aftermath of that heart-rending breakup. Our unexpected collision filled my bones with false hope. I wanted so badly to believe that we were meant to be after all. After melting into his warm smile on that crisp Chicago night, with equal parts moonlight and neon dancing off the street just right, I couldn't help myself.
The words jumped from my heart to my mouth, and fell right out before I could shove them into my coat pocket, quickly and unnoticed. They had escaped and now they were hanging out in plain sight, for all to see. In shock, all I could do was look down at his feet, assuming that the words had made their way somewhere between his left shoe and the Uber that was loading a few late-nighters about 5 feet behind him. But in that bustling city street, all I found in that moment was complete and utter silence. Slowly, I lifted my chin to catch his reaction, wincing a bit. With a pitiful look, he took a deep breath and took mine away, “someday, you'll find someone who loves you.”
To this day, I can still look back and feel the absolute hollowness of my heart on that night. Somewhere along the way of life, I bought into the lie that my worth came from being known and loved by a man.
In this world, hurt is inevitable. The guy says he's not in love with you. Your dream college doesn't accept you. The baby you've been praying for is met with an empty womb. After enduring the pain, it can be easier to build walls around our hearts instead of exposing them; but, that restless desire to be known and loved still endures. We begin to take on characteristics that aren't aligned with who we are simply because we believe that it's what will finally fill that empty gap, what will finally make us enough.
Although that can feel good for a moment, it isn't lasting. Love isn't truly love unless it can look at the worst of you – past all pretense, all the sin, all the hot-messiness – and still say, I will stand by you.
Christ's love sees every flaw and shortcoming, and has chosen to love us anyway. We aren't loved only for the shiny pieces, but for every last broken bit. We look for this kind of love everywhere, in every worldly thing, and although it can feel real for a period of time, we end up disappointed. Every. Single. Time. Even in marriage, we will always be disappointed by our husbands if we expect them to love us the way only He can. Jesus is the only one who loves us in a way that sets us free. We don't have to do anything or become anyone other that who we are in this moment in order to deserve it.
Let's get back to the (seriously embarrassing) story that I was telling you.
Just a couple of weeks after having my heart shattered into a million pieces, for what seemed like the millionth time, I finally found love. But it wasn't just any old “love.”
This love is totally different. It's complete, certain, a sure thing. It isn't anxious or ashamed of me. This love not only defines me, it refines me and it redeems me. It doesn't shrink back due to insecurity, it doesn't puff up to overcompensate, it is fully secure. In the assurance of this love, I rest. In the fullness of this love, I am finally free. I am found.
This love that I'm talking about is Jesus, Himself.
The more that we study His bravery, the more that we discover the true nature of His love. He never holds Himself at an arm's length. He doesn't tease us; rather, He invites us completely in. He surrounds us, seals us and gives us His whole self that we shall not want for anything else (Psalm 23:1).
And His love has taught me how to love, because we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Psalm 139:1 wraps this up beautifully, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” He knows you better than you'll ever know yourself, the pieces that you love, and the pieces that you'd rather forget. And still, He loves you, wildly.
You, m'dear, are worthy. Not for what you do, not for the number on the scale, not for the amount in your bank account. But only because of whose you are…His.
WORSHIP // REFLECT
Listen to: “Pieces” by Amanda Cook
As humans, we are unable to love completely and unconditionally like our Heavenly Father. Is there someone in your life that you expect to love you “better” or more fully? Are you ready to release them, knowing that they are incapable? And then, are you ready to allow Jesus to fill the missing pieces with His perfect love?
Written By: Dana Marie Arnold