The tears wouldn’t stop. The harder I tried to breathe deeply and contain my sobs, the louder my cries became, exposing the vulnerability I was trying to hide. I felt out of control—my emotions betrayed my body as I tried unsuccessfully to regain composure.
I leaned against the bathroom wall, unable to hold myself up under the weight of such deep hurt. It had been triggered by something unrelated to what he said, but once the dam broke, weeks of unreleased aching came rushing in at once. I knew I needed help to calm down but wrestled with guilt over how much it would cost him if I asked. But I couldn’t get control of my body; I couldn’t compose myself, no matter how many deep breaths I took.
“Do you need anything?” he questioned gently from the other room, where my tears were keeping him from sleep. His words were careful, probing tenderly and guarding my heart against potential defensiveness or shame for keeping him awake at such a late hour. Something about his invitation to need him gave me permission to admit I couldn’t handle my heart alone.
“I need you!” I sobbed, longing pouring honestly from my lips. He came right away, wrapping those muscular arms around me as tightly as he could. My body shook harder for a few moments as his strength allowed all my weakness to come out of hiding. Then slowly, my breathing calmed and my muscles relaxed, melting in the assurance of being held.
“I’m here,” was all he said, over and over. And those were the only words I needed. Knowing he was with me, physically and emotionally, made me feel safe. He proved that I am loved, not because I can hold myself together, but because love is big enough to hold me even when I fall apart.
Love gives me permission to lose control and still be held.
Yet, allowing myself to be loved when I feel the most unlovable may be the hardest thing to do. Nothing feels more vulnerable—it’s almost too risky to be loved more than I deserve. What if he changes his mind? What if I need too much? What if this time I push too far?
Receiving the kind of love I need means allowing myself to lose control.
Being loved means surrendering to the risk of being seen as I am, not as I want to be. It means allowing others to step into my mess and help me clean it up, even if they get a little dirty in the process. Being loved means speaking aloud the deep needs I work so hard to contain, trusting that those who love me are willing to pay the price to meet my needs, no matter what it costs them. It means accepting that even when I do my very best to love the way I should, I will still never be able to love perfectly. Neither can anyone else.
Being loved is costly. It costs my vulnerability, the willingness to let someone see the very worst of me and trust they will stay close.
Being loved costs my control, releasing myself from the pressure to perform perfectly and earn the love I’m given.
Being loved costs my fear of rejection, since I cannot receive love fully if I’m enveloped in the armor of self-protection.
Being loved means allowing someone to give me what I cannot give myself, even when I have nothing to offer but my neediness.
That night in the bathroom was a breaking point that opened the way for grace to rush in. As I admitted my need for help, I also invited my man to offer his strength in my weakness. And it reminded me that there is no shame in needing another to pull me out of my pit—there is actually more love than I could imagine, when I’m brave enough to ask.
It’s hard to be loved. It will cost the one who loves me everything they have, and it will cost me everything I’m tempted to hold back. But love is the only place safe enough to give and receive without pretending. And love is worth everything I can give.
Featured image by Kandice Halferty Photography