Loss. The most painful experiences of our lives always pave a trail back to the same idea. Loss. And it’s not the loss itself that causes our hearts to break, but rather the parts of ourselves that die because we can no longer see who we are in relation to that thing that we no longer have. We lose a relationship, a job, control, sanity, happiness, and we suddenly feel inadequate because we always rely on something else to make us feel good enough. Who we are slips away with whatever we lose.
We’re terrified because all of a sudden there isn’t another someone or something there to love us even when we don’t.
We’re terrified because all of a sudden we think we exist in a world that doesn’t want us.
We’ve been convinced that the only way to attain an ideal existence is to pit ourselves against each other, to tear ourselves and others down, to beat ourselves and others up. We hate each other until we hate ourselves, because who we are is never enough. Everyday, there are people killing themselves and each other, women and girls starving themselves, young adults self harming, couples fighting, adults crying themselves to sleep at night. There is hopelessness and heartache and hate everywhere we turn, and it’s no longer just an issue of culture or gender or society; it’s an issue of humanity.
We hate because it’s easier than the alternative. We don’t want to stop looking in the mirror and loathing what we see because the reward of starving ourselves is just too gratifying when we realise we’ve shed another kilogram. Because hating someone instead of forgiving them is easier than forgetting. Because complaining is easier than changing, because arguing is easier than compromising, because never risking anything keeps us safe.
Because the alternative is loving without condition.
Love. The very thing that we struggle with every day.
Love. The very thing that opens us up to loss.
We aren’t willing to risk losing something of who we are for truth, or hope, or love, because it could also mean loss, so we attack. We attack, we hate, we tear ourselves down and take others with us in the process.
We don’t know how to feel good about ourselves until someone turns to us and tells us we’re beautiful. But what does it even matter anyway? We won’t listen. We are so convinced that there is nothing worthwhile or beautiful about us that we disagree with every nice word someone says about us, no matter their true intentions. We don’t know how to love people outside of the context of who we are when we love them. We don’t know how to live outside of what we acquire or accomplish. Who we are has become what we do. We measure ourselves in dress sizes, and dollars, and job success, and what other people think of us. We measure ourselves in what we do, when the true wonder is just that we are.
We think failing is losing the things we use to define ourselves. Failing is losing our career, or our relationship, or our possessions because these things are all we have to convince ourselves that we are worthy, and whole, and enough.
But if we already know this, why do we still hate? If we already know who we are isn’t what we do, isn’t who we are in other people’s eyes, isn’t how thin we can be, or how much money we can make, why do we still hate ourselves? Why do we go on squeezing our hearts, and minds, and bodies into unattainable ideas? Why can’t we just be?
Because we love love, and we need to be wanted. It’s simple and crazy.
We need love and we need to give love. But it can’t be love based on image, or career, or wealth. It has to be unconditional, because it’s all we’ve got. That’s where we start.
We need to start to recognise love in everything. We need to be able to recognise love as a smile from a stranger on a day you’re feeling as though you might not make it, and a Facebook message from an old friend reminding you that you’re memorable, and a birthday party full of new faces and possible friends, and being able to afford coffee one week and not the next and being able pay your phone bill one month and not the next, but regardless knowing that you’re trying and surviving and living and at the end of it all being able to stop and take a breath and smile because you’re alive.
We have to start filling ourselves with this love, this love that comes in every form, in every place, in every heart, because it’s the only love. It’s God’s love.
We have to start filling ourselves with His love because it makes us better. With his love, it’s easy to believe we are enough. We can turn to His love when we feel the sting of rejection, when we can’t take another blow, when we know we might not make it this time; because His love makes us realise that we will always be enough. The cross is God’s way of saying “me too”. Through Jesus suffering and death on the cross, we are reminded that we are not alone, and that our lives are not for nothing and that we can’t live them as though they are.
That’s just the thing – without what we do, what we love, or what we own, we are still, always, forever enough. And that’s love. That’s God’s love working in us, and maybe that’s all we need.
Shannon is a 21 year old wannabe writer, interested in fashion, travel, books, theatre, food, and good company. She recently graduated from a Bachelor of Arts, with majors in English Literature and Writing. In 2013, she was engaged by Marist Youth Ministry as a regional intern. This role was diverse and life-giving one for Shannon, and gave her the passion, dedication, and heart for continuing in ministry and journeying with young people as they encounter Jesus Christ in their lives.