I have felt lonely and alone—like I have to do everything myself and carry the burden alone—both as a married woman and more recently as a single mom, and it’s taken me a long time to feel the love that is around me every day.
At a Focus Tuesday meeting in Kansas City one night, Dawna Grigsby said intimacy means that “I see you, and you see me.” Her definition of intimacy made so much sense that I never forgot it.
I felt comfortable with the first part and even enjoyed getting to know others, sharing ideas with them, going to deeper levels of heart and truth; however, I felt extremely uncomfortable with the second part where I was the one looked at. I felt ruined and damaged, like film exposed to the sun, and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I didn’t want to see myself.
I was unhappy and disconnected yet didn’t know why. Now I understand that real intimacy is more than being open to other people; it starts with being open to self and God. With seeing and knowing self and God. To be intimate with another, we must be intimate with ourselves and our Creator. As my relationship with God has strengthened, my relationships with others are improving. As I begin to see and accept myself, I begin to connect more with other people.
Today is the day after Valentine’s Day, which is a day of love and friendship, and I am feeling more love and connection than I ever remember experiencing before. For the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel lonely because I know that God is with me and loves me. As Chris Tomlin sings in “Whom Shall I Fear,” “I know who goes before me. I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever. He is a friend of mine. The God of angel armies is always by my side.” And I know that the members of my small group at church are also walking with me. I know that my girls are with me. In fact, I am surrounded by kind and loving people (including all of my online friends) and feel blessed. I feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life when he finally “wakes” up and sees how wonderful his life is and Harry says that George is the “richest” man in town because so many people care about him.
I am loved. I am loving. I am love.
Earlier this week, I bought dark chocolate and a beautiful bouquet of flowers to share with my girls for a Valentine’s Day treat. Otherwise, I went through a normal day of work and errands, yet I felt content, connected.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” Whenever I hear this line from the end of Les Miserables, I smile and cry because it is so beautiful and so true and because it shows me that I am blessed to love and be loved.
I remember a therapist I saw in Florida who, during our first session, started with the question, “How’s your heart?” No one had ever asked me that precise question before, and it shocked me. At first I thought she was asking if I had physical heart problems because I’ve had anxiety attacks where I was scared of having a heart attack. Then, I realized she meant my heart, my soul…everything that makes me Rachel, and I didn’t know what to say. How often do we ask each other, ask ourselves, how is your heart today? Where is your heart right now? And how different would our lives, our families, our world be if we started with that?
KarenMcElmurry, my writing mentor during the last year of my MFA, writes about the dark heart with compassion, honesty, and courage, which is my hope for my writing and life…to lead with compassion, honesty, forgiveness, and love.
I taught the song “The Heart of the Matter” to my non-native speaking students yesterday in reading class, and the song is true. What is most important is forgiveness, which only happens with compassion and love: love of self, love of God, love of others. Dawna Grigsby once defined compassion as “love in action,” which makes sense because love begets compassion which begets forgiveness which begets love…a beautiful cycle of hope. So, the truth is that love is what is important; love is what matters; God is love.