Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Living Loved

With the New Year just days away, I've been thinking of my word/phrase for 2016.  I inadvertently stumbled on the practice of naming my year in 2012 as a way to remind myself that though my marriage was breaking up that I had not been, was not and never would be "alone."  So 2012's word was "Never Alone."  After my world exploded and I began the task of rebuilding and recovery, the building blocks of starting over became paramount so 2013's word was "Provision."  In 2014 I focused on three words "Prosper, Transform and Delight," while I sought "Healthy Connections" in 2015.

Reflecting on the past twelve months my focus on creating healthy connections is amusing to me at this point in time.  At the time of choosing the year's focus, I had just re-entered the dating scene after over three decades of being married and was realizing just how easy it is to get sucked back into toxic relationships.  It still amazes me that at the end of 2015, I am remarried to a man without addictions and am enjoying an incredibly healthy marriage--not perfect but healthy.  My remarriage has required additional adjustments for my children but we are all finding our way in a new blended family.

One of the challenges of remarriage and a healthy connection with my spouse is accepting the reality that I am loved just as I am.  So I am naming 2016 the "Year of Living Loved."  Living loved is more than knowing that I am loved; it is living as someone who is dearly loved.  The difference is greater than the 18 inches or so between my head and heart.  Living loved means that I no longer hustle for acceptance; it means that I do not base my worth or value on what others think of me or on what I do.  Living loved is operating out of a system of grace and favor rather than tit for tat or quid pro quo.  Living loved means that my striving can cease; I simply rest in the fact that I am loved--nothing more and certainly nothing less.

Learning to live as one dearly loved must begin in my relationship with my Higher Power.  If I can rest secure in His love and care, I will find value, meaning and purpose that are not tied to my striving, abilities or performance.  "Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging" (Brown, Daring Greatly). Most of us do not feel worthy of love and belonging--it is not a message that is necessarily communicated to us by families of origin (though in an ideal world it would be), employers or even friends.  We humans are fickle, judgmental and prone to criticism and idealism.  Our love is often conditional, even when we are trying to love unconditionally.

But God's love is unconditional, lavish and bigger than our misunderstandings of Him (Jacobsen, p. 185).  I recently spent a week with my adorable granddaughters and was reminded again of just how much I love them and how fiercely protective that love is.  Living loved means that I "awaken to each new day confident that the Father delights in me like a parent over his newborn child" (Jacobsen, p. 181).  It means living with "eyes wide open, looking for ways in which Jesus is making Himself known" to me each day (Jacobsen, p. 183).  It results in a quiet trust that no matter what may come, I will be ok because I am loved.

Learning to live as one dearly loved means that I can accept my faults and failures without a need or urgency to defend, explain, rationalize or minimize.  Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), however, the problem in our world is that so many of us do not love ourselves so we cannot possibly love others as they deserve to be loved.  By learning how to love my flawed and imperfect self--by extending grace and mercy to myself and silencing my inner critic, I will be better able to love those around me, to offer grace, kindness and a nonjudgmental acceptance.  I've noticed in recent months that my heart overflows with love for others and it seems to be directly correlated to the measure with which I love myself.  What may seem selfish and self-centered is actually a prerequisite for reaching out in love to others.  Living loved is not just for me, it seems.  It benefits others as well--imagine that!

The world is a hate-filled place these days with politicians, clergy and the media spewing hate-filled messages intended to further polarize and divide us.  It is time for us as a people to embrace love--love for our Higher Power, for ourselves and for those around us.  We can only love our broken world to the extent that we allow ourselves to be loved by One greater than us and to the extent that we love ourselves.  I am choosing to live loved in 2016.  Will you join me?

* He Loves Me:  Learning to Live in the Father's Affection, Wayne Jacobsen