"Let Me love you
and I will love you,
until you learn
to love yourself..."
A dear friend recently sent me a link to Neyo's version of this song. And as she intuited, I fell in love with the lyrics. But it has has been Jacob Artist's interpretation of "Let me Love You" from a Glee episode, that has spoken to my heart this morning.
I remember one of my first big question in Sunday School was, "How can I love another as myself, when I don't know how to love myself?" And I remember Mrs. Garren's soft answer as if she were sitting in front of me today, "You can't."
But she didn't leave me there. She opened her Bible and found a passage (from I John 4:19) that I noticed she'd tabbed for herself with a small slip of paper and had carefully outlined in pen.
Then, with tears ready to spill from her eyes she read:
"We love Him,
because He first
because He first
It was clear that this passage held great meaning for her and that she was extending it to me as a gift of love.
It's taken me decades to understand what she wanted for me that Sunday morning. You see, Mrs. Garren was not just my Sunday School teacher, she was my friend and confidante. She was the first grown-up I'd ever talked with about God, and she was the first person with whom I'd ever shared how small, helpless, and insignificant I felt in a very dark world.
Later she would encourage me to speak with someone -- a teacher, a practitioner, my mother -- about what I was feeling, but I just couldn't. For many years it was the memory of those tears -- gathering on her eyelashes that morning as she read to me about God's love -- which gave me hope, and helped the most.
I knew she knew, and I somehow sensed in her tears that she loved me. And that she loved me enough to want something for me. She longed for me to know how to love myself, so that I could love (and be loved by) others. So she turned me to the best teacher and textbook she knew -- the life of Jesus.
And although it took me years to understand the true promise and power in that passage, its seed never left the ground of my heart. She'd planted something that she trusted would grow -- slow and sure -- until it was ready to push itself through the soil of my hopes and bear fruit.
I believe that she was encouraging me to look at myself in the mirror of Christ's love, and discover the person she saw. To let myself feel God's mercy in the wake of mistakes. To let myself experience forgiveness when I thought I least deserved it. To watch blame and regret dissolve in the tear-soaked space of His infinite, unconditional love. To let myself be loved, so that I could know how to love.
She knew I'd been a good girl, a very good girl. That I'd tried in every way to earn the love of others. But she alone knew that my heart was a shattered place full of self-doubt and secret pain. To know that she loved me -- still, and to know that she thought I deserved God's love was like rain upon arid ground.
But she also knew that I could never really love others with confidence, without first loving myself. That to give my love -- no matter how generously -- to others without first loving myself was like giving someone a grab bag gift. I wouldn't know what was inside, or if I really even believed it was good, or liked it, but hey, it's better than nothing -- not really!
By turning me towards the light of this Scripture Mrs. Garren was giving me a greater gift than I could ever even have imagined at the time.
Never underestimate the small seeds of love you sow. When sown with love and watered with tears they begin to take root. Trust Love to bring those seeds of kindness to fruition. Love never fails.
I love this passage from Mary Baker Eddy's article, "Love," in her Miscellaneous Writings, 1883 - 1896:
"Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal.
Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of a side door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth."
Yes, this is the way He love us -- and we do deserve it. And by example, this is how we've been taught by Him to love others. To love another as we have learned to love ourselves -- this "self" that He loves so deeply, impartially, universally, and unconditionally -- is all He asks. He knows us, and loves us. He gives us to one another as fully known and valued gifts of love.
Thank you Mrs. Garren for loving me.
offered with Love,