The Secret to Being Loved—and Why It’s So Hard

The Secret to Being Loved—and Why It’s So Hard

Today I know I am loved. Radically, abundantly, lavishly loved. And, maybe for the first time in my life, I’m not just trying to convince myself that I’m loved based on the evidence. I’m not giving myself a pep talk in the mirror, convincing my heart to feel all the things my head knows to be true. I’m not trying to convince anyone that I’m lovable by attempting to earn their approval through my good behavior. I’m not grasping for an emotional experience I desperately long for but fear I don’t actually deserve.

No, this is different than in the past. Today, my heart and my head are aligned, and it’s no small miracle. Like turning my face toward the sun, I am holding still long enough to bask in the absolute goodness of knowing I am loved more than I can fathom—and I have done nothing to deserve it.

Why does today feel like such a victory? Wouldn’t anyone feel loved if they were surrounded by gracious friends, part of a generous family, and married to the best human on the face of the planet? Unfortunately, no. Just being loved (even when loved abundantly and well) is not enough to make someone believe they are loved.

Sometimes it takes breaking into pieces to experience the love that has been there all along. 

The last several weeks have been exhausting. Strike that—it has been a moment-by-moment battle for my sanity. Every single day for the past month and a half has been filled with some of the most difficult conversations, excruciating pain, spiritual heights, intimate moments, and crippling fear of my entire life. It’s been enough to make a person feel crazy—or at least worn down by intense emotions to the point of deep soul fatigue.

I’m sitting here writing for the first time since before all hell broke loose, watching the rain fall in torrents from the sky. Not even five minutes ago, the sun was shining and the sky was the brightest shade of blue. It happens like that in the spring, the weather changes quickly and unexpectedly. It’s a normal pattern each year, yet I’m still caught off guard when I’m outside without a coat and the rain pours down.

Pain always catches me off guard, too. Even though it’s a normal, expected part of being alive.

A few months ago, I had told a few close friends this was the year I wanted to be done with the insecurities and anxiety that had come in waves on and off for as long as I can remember. I told them I was ready to be free—I wanted to be my truest self, uninhibited by the old stuff I kept wrestling down, pushing it back below the surface of my heart.

No more working harder than I should because I am afraid of disappointing someone.

No more shaming myself for eating too much dessert or panicking if I miss a workout.

No more striving to prove that I’m competent even though I’ve been out of the professional world for several years.

No more hiding the pain of public humiliation from past failure.

No more fear of failing at whatever new thing I’m brave enough to risk trying.

No more longing for some other role that might satisfy my soul more than the humbling job of motherhood.

No more wishing to live any life other than the beautiful one I’ve been given.

No more pretending. No more hiding. No more performing. Only freedom.

I had no idea what freedom would cost. I didn’t realize it would require me to face every fear, forcing me to drag my husband, family, and closest friends with me through the muck and mire of my overwhelming emotions. I didn’t realize that in order to release anxiety, I would actually have to walk through it, allowing panic to fully surface in its various forms.

I didn’t expect freedom to cost so much.

But the miracle unfurled slowly, as my inability to hold myself together decreased exponentially with each passing day. I was falling apart, and I couldn’t hide it. Friends kept checking in, and I was too tired from so much heartache to pretend I was okay. The harder I worked to stop hurting, the more out of control I felt—I just couldn’t stop the storm from coming. But they never stopped checking in. They never stopped praying.

When I deserved it the very least, when I had absolutely nothing left to offer except my embarrassment over what a mess I was, my people just kept loving me. And because I was exhausted from my own battle with fear—my fear that if I couldn’t pull myself together, they would give up and walk away from my broken pieces—I finally couldn’t help but let their love in.

I needed to be loved, but I didn’t get to choose how—I just had to receive love in whatever form it came.

The rain has stopped now and the sky transformed back to blue, maybe even a clearer blue than before the storm. The air feels fresher from the rain, and somehow my lungs have a greater capacity to breathe in the gift of oxygen after so many tears.

I’ve never needed to know that I’m loved more than I do these days. Yet, the miracle is, because my heart has broken wide open, there is nothing left to keep love out. So I’m going to just keep letting it come. And maybe, just maybe, it will get out a little bit easier now too.

 

On Growing Deep Roots

On Growing Deep Roots

I was having a bad day, when a friend showed up on my front porch with bright pink gerbera daisies, a pop of color that brought beauty into my anxiety-ridden heart. The same day, my husband came home with burnt orange tulips, bidding me with their gentle presence on my table to believe I am loved. (Trust me, I know—my people are the best.)

I didn’t even consider the time it had taken those flowers to grow before I was able to enjoy them. All I noticed were the blossoms.

Beautiful as they are, I know I will only get a few more days out of these bouquets. Blooms just don’t last very long, even for the most proficient gardeners (ahem…not me).

Most growth happens unseen and unnoticed.

Early each spring at our house, green shoots start to poke through the dirt along our front porch. Stalks grow quickly and soon our walkway is lined with beautiful yellow, pink and orange tulips, with a few daffodils thrown in for good measure.

For about two glorious weeks as winter melts into spring, exquisite colors greet me each time I step outside. Then all too soon, the wind blows without mercy, and all that remains are empty stems and a few lonely petals hanging on for dear life. The leaves die and we cut the tulips back until the next year, when their beauty will emerge again in all its splendor.

The rest of the year, though, the bulbs lay dormant underground. Alive, but dormant. With no visible signs of growth. We can’t see that below the surface, life is preparing to burst through.

To fill in the gaps in our landscaping after the tulips finish blooming, we planted a few small rosebushes in our front yard. We carefully placed each root ball into the holes we’d dug, gently protecting the plants’ delicate roots to help them transition from their pots to our soil.

It turns out a plant can’t live without healthy roots. We can’t live without healthy roots either.

Growing deep roots is slow, tedious work. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is the growth noticeable as it takes place. Root growing occurs slowly, imperceptibly, through the consistent watering and nourishment of our souls.

I often find myself longing for the beauty of life in full bloom but struggling to do the unseen work of tending to what lies below the surface. I want flowers without gardening. I want beauty without discipline. I want security without stillness. I want growth without waiting. I want fulfillment without making space for what brings life.

So what does it look like to grow deep roots?

It looks like noticing what’s going on inside me, underneath the visible realm of activity and knee-jerk reactions and the tyranny of the urgent.

Paying attention to the voice within, the one whispering about what my heart needs, waiting for me to pause long enough to listen.

Allowing my character to be formed in the hidden moments while no one else is watching, valuing faithfulness over recognition.

Root care often feels unproductive, wasteful, and even indulgent. But investing in what is unseen is not optional; we either grow or shrivel. Healthy roots are necessary for hearts to burst into full bloom–and there is nothing more breathtaking than a woman fully alive.

In a moment of quiet during my kids’ nap time, I left dishes in the sink and sat down with Jesus’ words about what it takes to grow. “I am the vine; you are the branches,” he said. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Nothing. I can do nothing apart from the vine. No wonder it feels like I’m running on empty when I fill up my schedule without filling my heart. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing work that is seen, productive, affirmed by others, comparing myself and hustling for recognition and admiration. But no amount of approval can give me the life I crave. Growth happens in the unseen work of holding still long enough to receive the approval I’ve already been given.

Life flows into roots that hold still. Striving isn’t the key to growth–stillness is. No amount of self-effort will cause my life to yield the beauty I desire, but only resting in the slow, steady, mostly invisible growth that comes from believing I am loved today.

So instead of exhausting myself this year in an attempt to make flowers grow, I am giving myself permission to be still and grow deep roots.

I’m going to keep my days more simple and slow than full and frantic.

I’m going to write when I feel inspired, not when I feel pressure to perform.

I’m going to spend time alone with the Gardener of my soul.

I’m going to read books that inspire my heart and mind.

I’m going to ask God questions and listen for his answers.

I’m going to play with my kids while they still ask.

I’m going to run with gratitude for a body that can.

I’m going to be honest about my needs and limits.

I’m going to celebrate others’ gifts without comparing myself to them.

I’m going to stop striving to feel beautiful and rest in the loveliness of being myself.

And I’m pretty sure that blooms will come eventually. But I hope I will be too busy growing deep roots to notice.

What does root-care look like for you? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!