The “love” of which I speak in this article can be romantic love, the love of friendship, or the love of God, but its power does not get diluted in the slightest by its different denominations. Love is a powerful force is in our lives, and I have personally witnessed and experienced what a profound effect it can have on us–I believe love can change us when everyone and everything else cannot.
(This post, admittedly, is my attempt to speak of what I don’t quite grasp yet, so it might be a little out there. But it’s been a rare uplifting topic on my mind for a few weeks, so I decided to write about it.)
Romantic Love: A Motivator for Personal Change
For years, I hated myself. Absolutely, definitively, hated myself. Imperfection was the big concern for me–I wasn’t mistake-free, of course, and I got picked on in school for every mistake I made, mostly because I made such a big deal about it. I even began to self-mutilate because of my perfectionism, ranging from beating my own head with my fist to biting the first phalange of my right index finger. I wanted to be perfect, and when I couldn’t be, I had to punish myself. Disturbed logic as it was, it made sense to me in the moment. I didn’t consider myself worthy of love because of my imperfection.
Though I am not completely free of self-mutilation today, I do it a lot less frequently (and with less vigor) than I used to. That, I can credit almost completely to the supportive, healing love my longtime boyfriend has offered me. He doesn’t yell at me or deride me when I begin to bite my finger (as is my wont when life is generally not going my way). He instead sits with me and talks to me, literally “talking me down” from hurting myself any worse. He’s told me several times that seeing me hurt myself frightens him and makes him sad, and that he would rather that I hurt him than hurt myself. (Of course, I would never hurt anybody else–that’s one reason I turn my anger on myself rather than hit somebody who might deserve a good punch in the face. XD)
Over the years we have been together, I have watched my need to self-mutilate shrink to an occasional thing rather than an everyday thing, and I find myself sharing my little successes with him, telling him that it’s been four days since I last bit, or maybe even a week and a half since I last bit. One day at a time? Indeed. It is a daily process, but his support and his love make it possible for me to let the dark crescents of bite marks on my fingers heal, and for me to stop needing to inflict more. This healing relationship has helped me to transform, in a way I never imagined I could be any different.
The Love of God: An Amazing Changing Force
In the mid-2000s, I knew a lady in her early thirties who was a friend of a friend’s family. She stayed with them a few weeks at a time, when she was between houses and between jobs; I soon grew to understand why she was often between houses and between jobs, since her drug use and drinking were a major part of her life, as well as abusive men who stole from her and tried to control her. She spoke often of being so strung out she didn’t know where she was, and on late nights my friend and I would hear her begin to cry, only to fall asleep in the middle of her tears. I didn’t really know what to say to her, how to talk to her so that maybe I could help her–it seemed like she was already an old woman in a young woman’s body, with medical problems and addictions that thinned her brown hair and shrunk her face so much that she looked like a faded portrait of herself.
She moved out of my friend’s house for the last time in 2007, and we lost contact with her afterwards. I worried that she was in prison or in a homeless shelter somewhere; I hoped maybe she had found a place to live somewhere else, away from all the bad memories. The last place I expected to see her again was my church in March of 2011, coming down the aisle to talk to the preacher about moving her membership there.
As I stood in the choir loft that morning, singing the verses of the invitation hymn that called anyone who wanted a few moments to pray at the altar to come down, I saw a trim but healthy-looking woman stand up from one of the back pews and walk down the center aisle toward the front of the church. Her hair, wavy and thick, was highlighted, warm blonde atop light brown, and she wore a smile and a glow that spoke of being whole at long last; she wore a simple blouse and skirt, looking put-together and professional. I did not know her, I was sure–and yet, as she clasped hands with the minister and began to speak to him quietly, I felt that somehow, I did know her. It was not until she turned and glanced at me, and her eyes brightened with recognition, that it finally clicked; she was the friend of a friend’s family from so long ago. She was so utterly changed, inside and out, that the memory I had of her didn’t match at all.
After church services were over, I came down from the choir loft and went to speak to her. There was a radiance about her that almost made me disbelieve she was the same woman I had known before–gone was the frail old-young woman who was sometimes too strung out to answer the door, and in her place was a woman with a new grace and stability. I didn’t get to speak to her long, but I walked away knowing that the love of God had transformed yet another soul, one I never would have guessed could have been reached. The completeness I sensed was so touching and poignant that I found myself weeping. Just as God had transformed my life through the love of a good man, so had He done hers through time and spiritual rediscovery.
I Don’t Know How It Works, But I’m Glad It Does!
I don’t know exactly how these transformations take place. All I know is that it’s hard for me to look back at the way I was before I met my boyfriend and feel the self-hatred thrumming through my memories, because I am quite different now. Yes, the hate does come back on occasion, when I’ve missed a turn on the road for the fifth time, or when I just can’t solve that last puzzle that will make a website work. But it’s a lot less often now. The love God brought into my life changed that for me, just as He changed the woman I once knew from helpless and broken to complete and joyful. Love, in all its forms, can indeed transform us as no other force can on earth.