I have a difficulty with being loved. Part of me does not like it as it’s easier to do things on my own. And I don’t think I’m alone in this one. Many of us feel uncomfortable being loved—by a lover, by a parent, by a friend, by God. And yet in my innermost part of me, I desire it. We all desire to be loved, to be wanted and to be known. Can we be known by others as we truly are? Wouldn’t they reject us if they knew what we really are at our core? As we are loved more, we become more fully who we are created to be.
George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican priest, wrote about this need for love As well as our aversion to it. He writes in his Love (III): “Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back, guilty of dust and sin.” So often, we feel unworthy of the love of another. Don’t we see this in so many ways as we look around our world today? My busyness and shallow interactions with others are all ways I keep others at bay and me from being known by them. As Herbert’s main character interacts with Love, who is God Himself, there is a huge sense of unworthiness, a sense of shame, toward all that God has done it all for him—for us! The story continues:
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
Herbert provides us with a picture here of a feast prepared for all who will be loved. All one has to do is “sit down.” And Herbert did just that. Herbert’s realization of his own love brought him to a deeper realization of who he was created to be. Similar to Margery Williams’ story of Velveteen Rabbit, Herbert saw that being real has nothing to do with “how you are made, [but rather] it’s a thing that happens to you.” That when one “REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” And the process is slow, and it may hurt, and it typically “doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
And when we are loved, when we can allow ourselves to be cared for, we are real, living exactly where God would want us to be. Thankfully, this is a long process for all of us, not something I can master by tomorrow morning. In this, there is grace.
So, may each of us find strength in remembering that in our hair being loved off and being loose in the joints is an invitation toward becoming more real, and that this occurs as we allow others and the Other to love us more fully.
And now your turn: What are some of the ways you see in yourself that you are real or aren’t real, loved or aren’t loved and long to be loved or real?