In the show How I Met Your Mother the main character Ted Mosby is diagnosed by his friends as an “I Love You” whore. After meeting his future long time friend as well as a several time ex-girlfriend, within hours after meeting her and taking her out on a date he met her in her apartment and told her that he loved her. Is it possible to love someone this fast? Is it even possible to love another human being at all?
The very act of love is giving someone something of yourself. If I were to truly love someone, it would have to begin with me gazing in their eyes and not looking for them, but, for me to truly look for myself. Because, if I am giving myself away them I am actually looking to recapture my own lost identity, not in myself, but in the other. The problem is when I can’t look in the mirror and love myself, because if I cannot begin to look at myself in the mirror and love what I see, how can I even begin to love how I see me in others?
When I look in the mirror how can I love myself? The deepest consequences of sin began a life of shame for me. And, if my failures are not enough, the media, our friends and families, our school systems, our churches lie to us about who we really are. Christianity has somehow built into itself and drives into others more shame. People along the way shame us. I do things and think things to shame myself. And, that shame causes me to believe that I am not lovable. So how can I love someone if I cannot love myself? How can I let anyone love me if what I am is not lovable?
We do not have to change for God to love us, God loves us so we can change. In all of our self-doubt, self-guilt, self-hatred, it is God who loves us and restores us. God walks us through the darkness of ourselves to take us to the true light, our true identity. The one that is unchangeable, the one that is eternally lovable, the one that is made in the image of God. So when I begin to love and value my own self, is not actually me, it is God in me. And, when I can love God in me, I can love God in others. I can love them for who they actually are.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in Philippians when the author describes God’s work on the Cross as “Self-emptying” or as making himself nothing. When we love others as Christ loved others, we dare risk making ourselves nothing. We pick up our crosses, we pick up our crosses in the name of love. We empty of ourselves. And, this is the fear of love. Love costs us so much. To make ourselves nothing, often reveals to ourselves our very nothingness. If we cannot hold on to, as Christ did, that true identity, then my love will always look like me (which never carries crosses). But, if I can hold onto that bigger identity, than I am willing to empty myself. Beginning with my own shame, my own pain, my own thoughts and feelings. Then by sharing in the crosses of others. The glorification of love is not found in the lustful, all-or-nothing passions and emotions that love has been depicted as, (although there is passion and emotion and can have lust), but in the day-to-day kindly working out our own messiness and sharing in the comedic, fun-filled, and tender glory of others. Love often shares companionship with people who hurt us the most because we experience their own faults and more deeply, just as we hurt those because they experience our own faults more deeply.
Be filled with love and the glory of love, trusting in it will be the only thing to heal our wounds and loneliness. It will be the only thing that makes picking up our crosses worth enduring.