I don’t have a whole heart to love God with. That was a realisation I made a couple of years ago. I realised that I had taken for granted that I had a whole heart.
It was June 2013, and I was preparing myself for an inner-healing session when I made this startling realisation as I stood alone in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. I found myself praying, “Lord, make me whole, so that I will have a whole heart to love you with. Make me well, so that I can work hard for your Kingdom. Restore me to abundant life so that I may have a full life to lay down for you.” As tears poured down my face, a strange peace settled into my heart. It was the peace that came with the knowledge and acceptance of my personal reality.
As far back as I could remember, I had always tried with all my heart to love God and others, to lay my life down for others, and to be the best Christian that I could be. But time and again I had been surprised by dramatic setbacks which had finally made me realise that somewhere, somehow, something was terribly wrong.
And this was the moment that a new epiphany dawned – a revelation of grace that illuminated my plight: I was not whole. Since my youngest days I had somehow learned to give pieces of myself away in return for “love”. I was never a naturally popular child – I was too strong-willed and opinionated. But I had found that approval, praise and admiration could be won. And so, I learned to leverage on all the gifts I found I had that seemed to win me approval. I strove in all aspects for perfection, in some ways quite successfully becoming what seemed to be the perfect daughter, the model student, and the most loving and loyal friend. In an epic charade in which the most important person to be fooled was me, I acted a part and gave pieces of my heart away so that I could be loved in return.
But in all of this I was not really free. I acted on a compulsive need to assuage the deep insecurity that I was not in and of myself really worthy of love. There were times when my successes terrified me for I had begun to identify myself with my achievements and I feared the day when I could not keep up with the appearance of perfection. For then, I would surely be forsaken. Who was I really? I hardly knew.
So it was that when Christ wooed and won me, it was this hollow shell of a girl that was won. I had thought that now that I was in love with God, all would be alright. I thought that I had found a refuge and a shelter from which I could hide in all my insecurities. I drank thirstily from all my God experiences, hoping that these would fill up the bottomless pit of hunger for love in my being. I was overjoyed when I experienced healing from the gaping surface wounds that I knew I had, thinking that now I am well and I can serve Him and others in peace.
How utterly and wonderfully mistaken I was. For God wasn’t going to allow me to be content with so little. It was never supposed to be that easy. For when I made up my mind to give my life to Him, what I had inadvertently done was to give Him a foothold from which He could conquer my entire being. And the first thing God wanted to do was to get me to gather back the scattered pieces of myself which I had given away so that I could have a whole heart to be loved and to love with.
He showed me that while I had been trying so hard to “die to myself” and to “lay down my life for others”, I had been failing because I have been drawing upon my old life instead of His. I have to first learn how to live as He lived before I can know how to lay down my life as He did. I need to first know the abundant life that He came to give me (Jn 10:10) before I can lay that life down for my friends (Jn 15:13). I must know what it is to be free before I can freely give my life up for Him.
He showed me that my ‘yes’ meant little when I am unable to say ‘no’. He showed me that it is hypocrisy to claim to love others when I do not know how to love myself, and futility to attempt to love Him when I have not yet learned to let Him love me. He showed me that the first soul I needed to show compassion to, to nurture beauty in, and to truly love, was my own. Most importantly, He helped me realise that I could not hope to do this without depending totally on Him.
It is time to make the hollow foundation solid, and that means I am starting at the beginning. I will no longer attempt to be more loving than I really can be, for in doing so I harm myself and others. I have had enough of attempting to build a castle of glass; I will learn to love the mud hut I am in. For if this shambles is good enough for the Son of God to dwell and delight in, so shall it be for me!