“God is Love and those who make their home in love, make their home in God and God in them.” I John 4:16
The deepest yearning of the human heart might just be the need to love and be loved. Raymond Carver said, “And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.”
The need to feel ourselves valued and affirmed is overwhelming and universal. We all have the need to be loved as we are and for who we are. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes an existential crisis of one form or another to bring us to the point where our veneers of self-sufficiency and are carefully crafted personas are adequately stripped away so we can receive the love for which we so desperately yearn.
Therapist Rebecca Raymond tells the tale of one young lady and an experience which led her to allow herself to be loved as she had never before: “In the eighth year after her recovery from cervical cancer, Hellene was a truly beautiful woman who spent hours on her appearance. Even during the worst of her chemotherapy and illness, her nails had been perfect and her wigs were exquisite. No one had ever seen her face without makeup since she was a teenager. She had been a single person for several years, now, but when she was married, she always woke 30 minutes before her husband did to be fully made up and dressed before he opened his eyes. Hellene came to see me before she became engaged. She described her fiancé as a wonderful person who was kind, loyal, intelligent and humorous. He was a highly successful and creative businessman. They had been living together for some time and got along very well. She described him as perfect, with one exception: He lacked passion. Their romantic life was pleasant but boring-he asked her permission every time he kissed her and she was not sure that this was the kind of man she wanted. All of that changed abruptly at 5:04 p.m., Oct. 17, 1989. On that afternoon, Hellene was in one of San Francisco’s finest department stores seeking the perfect outfit for a business dinner honoring her fiancé. In the company of a personal shopper, she was in the dressing room wearing fuchsia silk that she decided was just right.
Both women were admiring the dress when the shopper suggested she wear it up to the 7th floor and match it to a pair of shoes. Leaving all her belongings in the locked dressing room, she went to the shoe department. She had just tried on a pair of heels when the earthquake struck. All of the lights went out, the building shook violently, and she was thrown to the floor. In the darkness she could hear things falling around her. When the shaking stopped, a few saleswoman and several other customers somehow made their way down the stairs to the darkened front of the store. There was broken glass everywhere. Helene found herself standing in the street in a very expensive dress and perfectly matching 4 inch heels. Frightened and dazed people rushed by her. All of her clothes and purse were somewhere in the dark chaos of a building, which was quite possibly no longer safe to reenter. Her money was in the purse and so were her car keys. Walking to the corner she picked up a phone, but it was dead.
There were no cabs and no one to ask for help. She turned north and started walking toward her home many miles away. It took her almost eight hours to reach there. After a short time her feet began to hurt, so she took off the heels and threw them away. As she walked on, her nylons tore and her feet began to bleed. She passed buildings that had collapsed, stumbled over rubble and waded through streets filled with filthy water from firefighting efforts. Dirty, sweating and disheveled, she walked down the marina to the Golden Gate Bridge and crossed into the next county and her home in San Rafael.
She reached home sometime after midnight and knocked on her own front door. It was opened by her fiancé who had never seen her with her hair uncombed. Without a word, he took her into his arms, kicked the door closed and covered her dirty tear stained face with passionate kisses. Hellene is a very intelligent person, she couldn’t understand why she had never met this ardent lover before. When she asked him he said simply, “I was always afraid of smearing your lipstick.”
Hellene tells me that now when she begins to relapse into her former perfectionism, she remembers the look of love in her fiancé’s eyes when she opened the door. She had been looked at by men all her life, but she had never seen that expression in a man’s eyes before. She had never felt so loved before.
From a religious perspective, the idea of recognizing our “belovedness” and living in and out of that belovedness is the heart and soul of living faith. As priest and author Henri Nouwen has said, “Jesus whole life and preaching had only one aim: to reveal the inexhaustible love of God and show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives.” In the circle of faith we talk about the “unconditional” love of God. Put more simply, that means that God love us anyway-even with our, smeared lipstick, checkered pasts, our character flaws and our faltering faith. I like to say that God loves us for exactly who we are that we might become more than we are. That unconditional love provides the platform for our growth and transformation. God loves us with a tender and relentless love that calls us to our true home in the spirit. This is the only things that can fulfill the deepest yearning of the human spirit….there is no other way.