Many years ago in college I wrestled with the same stuff, and experienced a bit of healing when (of all things!) I saw a bumper sticker that said: "God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way". That helped, but as I lay there in the dark, I realized there's still a hurt place in my heart, like an old splinter or shard of glass caught in a wound, that says "You need to be better before you can be loved".
I had finished telling God what I wanted help with and was trying to drift back to sleep, but a song started running through my head. It was a challenge to make it go away so I could fall back asleep. Then it dawned on me, as I lay there connecting with The Eternal One: I realized The Music Maker was trying to speak to my heart through that song if I would just listen! Wow -- it was like prayer really was a conversation, and not just me talking and never hearing a response! I've had similar experiences while running, and while riding my motorcycle, which I blogged about here. This time it was different though, because I was in bed, safe and warm and it was still very dark outside, and the house was very quiet. This meant that, in contrast to the other times, my senses were not being fully stimulated, so I could concentrate more fully on what was being said to my soul. I realize the lyrics below are incomplete, and not in the exact order Billy Joel wrote them, but this is what I heard in my heart, over and over until I realized it was from God, for me:
Wow. I did finally drift back to sleep, and experienced a real peace. I guess "living loved" is not something I have to "try" and "do" as much as something I need to receive and allow.
I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
I've never let you down before,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.
I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew,
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?
I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.
Writing this brings tears back to my eyes as I ponder how richly I am loved by God. And the idea of having to be different before I can be loved made me remember a post I did here on the profound truth God spoke to me through a simple story about a velveteen rabbit:
That post was from early 2006, but reminded me that this journey I've been on goes back to late 2003 -- that is when God first began nudging my heart in the direction I am still pointed. Only it took me until just this moment to connect all the dots and see how His hand has been on me this entire time. His love for me shines through the fact that He has brought me full circle in some ways -- this journey has not been just a bunch of random moves here and there (theologically, ecclesiastically, and geographically). It is all part of the same thing in my heart as He loves me into realness.
I don't have to be real to be loved.
I have to be loved to be real.
I guess Paul knew what he was talking about when he told the folks in Philippi that it was God who was at work in them -- both to give them the desires and to give them the abilities to walk out the life He'd called them to. And that same God is doing the same thing in me.
Living loved is easier and harder than I've ever thought, but that's OK. It's a good thing!