I sat there wanting to crawl in a hole. Not wanting to talk to anyone. Not wanting to answer the questions asked. I felt disconnected when I arrived and felt like I had to hold myself together because no one else was going to do it for me.
What happened to the hopeful openness with which I had started the year? Suddenly February comes around and I’m exhausted. I always hate January, but this one felt brutal. I started the year excited to reach out, to give, to love, and then illness struck one family member after another and I felt robbed. Like all of my energy had been stolen from me. And it wasn’t just physical. It was spiritual. It was emotional. There was illness even in my relationships.
“I want to go back to that openness,” I thought. “I want to care about people and love people and give.” But, the thought was only half-hearted. Instantly a battle was raging inside me – why was I resisting this so much? Why was I being so protective of myself after I had just set such a strong intention not to be, after I had just determined that this would be a year of looking outward instead of just looking inward?
And then I found it. That thought, that fear, at the center of my being… the reason… “If I don’t take care of myself no one else will. I have to protect myself. I can’t give more love because if I do I’ll be empty. And no one’s going to fill me up.”
There’s a fear within me that says love is finite. That it can run out.
I believe in self care, but I think this sort of thinking is different. This is a closing off. This fear – that if I give I will run out, I will be empty, I won’t get filled myself – this fear leads to building walls and shutting down. It leads to closing oneself off. It leads to a hardening. There has to be another way.
There is value in recognizing limits, in setting boundaries, in self care, but I think at some point you also have to open up your hands and say “I choose love.” At some point you have to step out and trust that the love you give will return to you in full eventually. Trust an infinite all powerful and loving God to meet your needs instead of trying to meet them yourself. Trust that showing up in love for another person will ultimately lead to others showing up in love for you.
This is the way of opening. I have friends who would call it the “feminine way”. This opening, this fluidity of giving and receiving love. I don’t want to harden myself, seal myself off, try to pull myself up by my own boot straps and fill my own holes and longings and emptiness – or worse yet pretend that I don’t have those empty places. No, I want to chose love. I want to surrender again and again. I want to open and give – not expecting something in return from that person, but expecting that God will pour out love to fill all my places of lack. Expecting that love won’t run out.
Love is not finite, it is infinite, because it is rooted and flows from a infinite God.
Lately I have forgotten. I have turned my attention to myself. I have given love begrudgingly and not openly. I have played the part of caregiver, but instead of giving love freely I have held tightly to each ounce of love I give away. I have counted each act and kept a tally of my giving expecting to be reciprocated in certain ways and being disappointed when I’m not. And I have wondered why I have felt empty. Love doesn’t work that way. Love doesn’t keep a record. Love doesn’t give begrudgingly. I have played the continuous part of caregiver, but my attention has been so pointedly on myself, on my seemingly limited supply of love, that I have failed to see the abundance of love all around me.
I have forgotten that love is infinite. It doesn’t run out. The more we give love – truly give selfless love – the more we are open to receiving love selflessly in return. I have thought that it was my job and my job alone to demand the love that I want, but have forgotten that God is love and that I need only accept love to receive it.
I keep asking for the love I want in my marriage, but I have been greedy in giving love. I have been a hoarder. I have felt I had limited supply and needed to ration it out. I have worried that opening myself up would mean hurt. I have tried to be loving, caring, and giving, but I have done so with one eye towards what I might get in return and if I didn’t get anything in return quick enough I shut down, because I need to protect myself. That is no way to live and no way to love.
I felt cheated of love in my mothering. I felt used by my children and unappreciated, forgetting that they are just that – children. I felt obligated towards them, more than I felt love towards them. Oh, how selfish my heart! Who has been the child in this relationship and who the adult? I know I have not acted like a loving adult lately. I have begrudged them the love they demanded, no the love they needed, feeling that they were stealing what little I had, instead of remembering that love is infinite and abundant in Christ.
I have closed myself off from friends and relationships and stopped taking active steps to reach out in community for much the same reasons. I thought love was finite and I thought I didn’t have enough to give. I forgot that it is in the pouring out of love that we make room and space for more of that infinite resource.
This is my confession. This is my truth. This is my breaking. I will remember. Love is infinite.
Rejoicing in the journey,