I find myself in a new situation and it is scaring me to death. It exposes more grief from an 11 year domestically violent marriage. It unveils the childhood deficits growing up in an immature community, while simultaneously ripping open the history of attachment wounds that come from being chronically unseen and unknown for an entire three decades. Am I too broken to give and receive love?
In an article from themighty.com the author writes about how traditional anxiety is just not the same for complex trauma survivors (C-PTSD). Our anxiety is translated into intense shame and grief. It states, “Even present-day situations where they are receiving love from a safe person can trigger the awareness and subsequent grief of knowing how unloved they were by comparison.”
I have found this phenomenon to be true in my current experience, and I was not expecting it. Every day is a new reminder of the basic human rights and loving attachment I was deprived of. Don’t get me wrong, all my physical needs were met in childhood, but emotionally and spiritually my heart was neglected – I was unseen and unknown. WHO I was; was not acceptable, I learned to turn myself off in order to keep connection with immature care givers who were too scared of the original Rochelle. This created a dark , empty hollowed out cave instead of a heart that was secure and loved – anything could be placed there, but nothing was. Over the years I tried coping and filling the dark cave with all kinds of things: validation from men, binging and purging, hours and hours of TV and movies, hyper-vigilance on all things around my environment, over spending, over – exercising, affairs, “religious serving” inside the church… but nothing worked.
In his recovery material, Pastor Darrell Brazell writes, “If your family of origin was not healthy, and especially if you did not bond well, you will struggle with attachment pain that is the deep ache in your soul that you just can’t quite put your finger on. It’s sub-cortical, which means it’s deeper in our brain than our conscious awareness. The pain, however, is the most excruciating pain known to man. And we do all sorts of crazy things to numb out attachment pain…. God intends for this part of our brain to grow primarily through the early childhood connections with our parents. However… this part of the brain is capable of growth our entire lives.”
So, here I find myself in the midst of a new type of community. I am having trouble accepting, receiving and believing this love. It reminds me of when my spiritual adoptive mothers tell me, “but Rochelle God loves you.” “Rochelle I love you and Jesus loves you.” Sad to say, my response is, “that’s nice, I don’t believe you” because a home culture of no emotional attunement, internalized the message that I am not worth loving. I am not worth someone’s time. I am unseen and unknown. The idea of love was never proven in my most formative years.
While, cognitively I know these statements of love to be true – I continue to surrender myself to my loving community and allow opposite experiences to convince my right brain that the knowledge of love in my left brain MUST be true. In his work, Dr. Phillip J. Flores states, “Relational connection with others provides the most powerful healing to the to the right side of the brain, the “experiential” side, which is where healing must happen.”
I know this to be true: connection is the only thing that will heal and replace the old messages of being unseen and unknown. But as I navigate this new part of my community, I have been asking myself the question: Do I even know what love is or how to receive it? It seems silly, I know, but the only framework I’ve had is one of control, fear, manipulation and deceit.
Furthermore, I want to know what is SACRED LOVE. Sacred means to be devoted exclusively, set apart, and entitled to respect. Everything I wanted in a marriage – but never received. I can think of only one source to purely model this type of love for me: JESUS.
Jesus, was relational in all aspects of the word. He remained relational even when experiencing grief, anger and frustration with the finite humans around him. Jesus himself endured intense emotions, and could still remain relational with His Heavenly Father. Even when his own followers did not believe him; he stayed relational. Love is relational.
I’m beginning to learn that sacred love says: “I am true to who I say I am. I am gentle, patient and steadfast. I see you, I hear you, you are completely and fully known to me, I choose you without condemnation -you matter.”
Did Jesus embody this statement above? How so?
1. Jesus attuned to the other
To show attunement means to internally shift in such a way that we resonate with the feelings and experience of another. A sense of “feeling seen and heard” will flourish in relationships where attunement is shared. Jesus modeled this with each person he interacted with. In John 8, “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” The phrase here that screams attunement is the fact that no other person on the scene empathized with this woman, yet Jesus stayed. “Until only Jesus was left.” I believe sacred love understands how to sit in the pain with the other – to hear the hurt, the negative emotion, the suffering, grief and joy. Jesus stayed, resonated with her feelings and experience and then reminded this woman of who she was. “Now go and leave your life of sin.”
The Lord attuned to Hagar in the desert when she fled from Sara – Hagar was alone and scared. The Lord SAW her – resonated with her human experience and appeared to her – SHOWING her that she mattered. “… the Lord has heard your cry of affliction… So she named the Lord who spoke to her. “You are El-roi”, for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?”” -Genesis 16:12-13 Sacred love did not abandon this woman who fled from an abusive situation, it pressed in and attuned to her cries for help.
Sacred love is able to attune because IT has also felt great pain – it is mature and capable to bear witness to the sorrow without condemnation. Sacred love knows how it feels to experience pain, betrayal and loss.
“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” -Isaiah 53
2. Jesus protected and sacrificed
When teaching people about his role, Jesus describes himself as the gate and the shepherd. “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… a hired hand will run away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf snatches and scatters them. This happens because he doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the GOOD shepherd. I KNOW my own, and my OWN know me.. I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10: 11 – 14
I love the beautiful imagery of the way love embodies watchfulness, protection, and sacrifice. Not only, does sacred love sacrifice for the good of the other – it protects. It does not let anything in, that could destroy the other. How might this play out in a relationship like marriage?
Wouldn’t the souls within the marriage work cooperatively, to protect the covenant and the heart of the other? Wouldn’t they orchestrate a rhythm of life that seeks to protect the sacred intimacy they’ve created as a couple? Wouldn’t they stand behind “gates” to protect hearts, minds, and sexuality within the covenant? Wouldn’t the people within the covenant even protect the other from the worst of themselves? Sacrifice would be required to live in such a way that the other is placed first and the COVENANT is protected AT ALL COSTS. Just as Jesus did for his sheep. Proverbs 27:23 gives the charge to “Know the state of your flock and put your heart into caring for them.” Wouldn’t I want sacred love to do this for me within the covenant of marriage? It’s what Jesus came for – to know us intimately and then care for us in a protective way – for our good.
We know that sacred love cost the ultimate sacrifice and we GET the opportunity to embody sacred love for one another because of this life-giving gift. “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still lost, Jesus died for us… For if, while through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be SAVED by his life.” – Romans 5:7, 10
3. Jesus presses in – ALWAYS speaking the TRUTH even when it was hard, painful, caused conflict and rejection
In John 8:40- 45, Jesus boldly speaks the truth, despite the reactions of those around him. Jesus is love- He remained faithful under pressure, and spoke to people in such a way that motivated them to be all that they were created to be. He was willing to endure pain, criticism and rejection in order to be close to those he loves. He told the truth EVEN when it hurt. “ Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”…..Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!”
In the book “Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You” Dr. Jim Wilder states, “I must learn to speak about what matters to me, even while I feel afraid, by having someone patiently help me find words I can mean and practice speaking in a low-threat situation, until I am ready to speak of my values, goals and preferences to others who are afraid or of whom I am afraid. This process of defining and expressing our identities gets much easier as our fear bonds change to love – bonds.” He goes on to state that “Love bonds are formed around desire, joy, and seeking to be with people who are important to us… they motivate people to live in TRUTH, CLOSENESS, JOY, PEACE, PERSEVERANCE, KINDNESS and authentic GIVING.” If that doesn’t sound like Jesus – then I don’t know what does.
Jesus spoke truth. Sacred love speaks TRUTH because it is for the good of the other. Jesus wanted us to be all that we were created to be. Wouldn’t I want to see that in my relationships as well?
4. Jesus desired goodness for the other
No matter who Jesus was speaking to, He always said and did what was BEST for them. Even the Pharisees, yes, he spoke with assertion, but it was what THEY needed to hear – in their BEST interest. When healing and having conversations Jesus desired good for whomever He was with. In John 4, speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well – not only did He accept her for EXACTLY who she was at the time, but He also wanted her to experience TRUE goodness. “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water… it becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life”
Sacred Love desires goodness for those who will accept it. Jesus stated, “My purpose is to give them a RICH and SATISFYING LIFE.” (John 10:10)
Years of spiritual abuse led me to hold many distorted beliefs, but the most damaging of all is: God doesn’t care about me. This would imply that He doesn’t care what goes on in my life, He punishes me, and would NEVER give me something good. This has been pretty damaging to work thru and there is still a lot left remove. However, cognitively, I know the TRUTH: the Bible says OVER and OVER that He actually wants us to flourish, prosper, enjoy good gifts, restore, redeem, celebrate, praise, rejoice, marvel, wonder, and heal. WOW! That’s a lot of goodness isn’t it? I must only look around – and start RECEIVING! “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed…” (Psalm 105:4)
SACRED LOVE desires GOOD for me!!! Little old me! Little Rochelle! In Psalm 103 it states, “He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!” and Zechariah 9:12 “Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.”
“He was sent to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners…” Isaiah 61:1
5. Jesus’ behavior matches His words
As Jesus walked thru the temple in Jerusalem, people surrounded him, they began asking questions because they did not believe Jesus was who he said. (I can relate. It’s so hard to trust and believe after abuse!) Jesus simply stated, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name... At my Father’s direction I have done many good works.” (John 10:25 -32) I love how the Message puts it, “Jesus answered, “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words.”
I believe that when we receive Sacred Love, we are relying on God’s track record over time. We are saying we are finally willing to risk believing that He is who He says He is and He will continue to prove it over and over and over in very tangible ways in our lives. Psalm 102:27, “But you are always the same; you will live forever. The children of your people will in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.”
In essence, you cannot have sacred love without risking in faith that it MUST be true. “Love never gives up, never loses faith… faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:7, 13)
6. Jesus is faithful and seeks justice for the other
“Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out”, Paul stated in his first letter to the Corinthians. When Jesus walked on this Earth – His actions proved that he was all about justice for the least of these. The bleeding woman, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery who was thrown in the middle of the circle among erroneous men, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”, he said. He stood with those society condemned, when healing a man blind from birth, he stated, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:3) I would imagine that in order to seek justice for another, it would take a great deal of empathy. An amount of empathy that could hold capacity for another person’s story, their pain, suffering and journey thru life. When we look on another with empathy we build up a desire to create safety for them, to help them heal, to help them let go and receive the justice God wants to give for their story. Jesus brought justice to each person he interacted with. Love, seeks justice for the other. David wrote, “The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.” (Psalm 103:6)
Justice comes in the restitution of what was lost, stolen and abandoned. Isaiah 61 states, “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor… to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.” Someone wise recently reminded me, “The Lord is in the business of restoring double what’s been lost” As she said this it reminded me of Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten”
So my next question becomes, do I BELIEVE that I am worthy of receiving the restitution that God provides?
Jesus is faithful. We see this prophesied in Hosea 2:19, “I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” Artist Matthew West sings a song called The God Who Stays, in it he states, “If I were you I would have given up on me by now – cuz I feel just like a lost cause. I would have labeled me beyond repair, but somehow you don’t see me like I do, somehow your still here… Your the God who STAYS, Your the God who STAYS, and you tell me nothing I have ever done could separate my heart from the God who STAYS.” Sacred Love STAYS and it STAYS consistently. No matter my mood, pain, joy, or suffering. It just sits beside, accepting me completely and fully. SACRED love is FAITHFUL.
Sacred love is faithful to the promise. Practically speaking, I imagine when we encounter this Jesus-like love in the form of another person from our community it would mean: when asked to be faithful to the marriage covenant a partner would fight like hell to do this, meaning No Porn, No Affairs, No Erotic Novels, No hook-ups over Craigslist, No emotional affairs over snapchat, No masturbation, ect. And, when a request is made to change hurtful behavior: a partner or friend would have compassion and seek to adjust in order to demonstrate faithfulness to the care of their relationship.
JESUS, thru INTIMACY, followed thru on the purpose set before Him. He brought to fruition the FAITHFULNESS of the Father. Jesus faithfully followed thru. God faithfully keeps the covenant.
“God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” (Hebrews 6:17-19)
Sister, you DESERVE… NO, YOU ARE WORTH THIS TYPE OF FAITHFULNESS. Especially, since a man is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) YOU ARE WORTH SOMEONE’S FAITHFULNESS to a marriage covenant.
Do you struggle to believe you are worth being loved well? (I can relate)
“Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have FAITHFUL love surrounding her.” – Psalm 32:10
7. Jesus is content
After speaking to the woman at the well, the disciples run up to Jesus and say, “Teacher, you need to eat something” immediately after expressing their concern Jesus turns to them and says, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me and from finishing his work.” (John 4:34) I believe that Jesus’ message was very simple: INTIMACY. That’s a part of what He meant when He said “I am doing the will of the Father”, in addition to sacrificing for us, He modeled the purest form of intimacy between himself and His Heavenly Father. He freely CHOSE to sacrifice BECAUSE of that intimacy. He was content in pointing other’s to the intimate love God has to offer: “For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40) and, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” in other words… “I want you to feel enjoyment and love in your heart towards me.” (Matthew 22:36 -37)
NEVER anywhere did Jesus say: work harder and build a big ministry, work and promote a mega – church, work and serve others at the cost of your wife and children, work to be perfect before you come to talk to me. I believe his message was much more quiet and simple: “my nourishment comes from doing the will of God.”... “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (I Timothy 6: 6-8)
He validated Mary in her contentment thru intimacy as well: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)
I believe sacred love CAUSES us to be content because the INTIMACY and VULNERABILITY shows me my value, just as Jesus knew His. When I am shown my value – there is no need to chase after anything else. There comes a quiet – contentedness and an ability to live from a place of nourishment. Love would show you that it is CONTENT to sit in intimacy with you – it needs nothing more. “Let love be your highest goal” (I Corinthians 14:1)
8. Jesus receives and believes
In order to participate fully in love – I must receive what is being offered to me. Jesus received the love offered from His Father, “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me.” (John 10:17) His Father spoke love and identity and Jesus received: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13 – 17) Imagine the vulnerability that Jesus must have had, opening himself up to the love and purpose His Father instilled in him, despite His fear of going to the cross (Luke 22: 42) .
In the same way, love must mean I open my heart in complete and utter vulnerability. I imagine myself laying on my back with arms completely open wide and allowing whatever is coming to wash over me – with no walls, no protection and no excuses. Will I allow someone to fully see me and embrace me? Will I allow them to comfort, validate, hold and accept me? Or, will I argue, push away and continue to hide parts of myself. If I do the latter – am I missing out on the full and complete benefits of the belief that I am worthy to be loved? Am I missing out on fully experiencing the joy of intimacy? If I choose to believe this love and kindness, wouldn’t I be participating in a complete experience of compassion and being fully known? What stops me from being fully known and believing I am loved? What am I afraid of? What if there was NOTHING about myself that would cause a person to run? What if there was NOTHING about who I am or what I stand for that would cause a person to reject me? What if EVERYTHING about who I am caused a person to press in and give more to me?
I imagine this is the type of receiving and believing it would take to let Jesus in – when I am fully laid out, arms open, no walls, ready to fully surrender to His compassionate presence and BELIEVE that there is NOTHING about who I am that would cause him to reject me. EVERYTHING about who I am causes him to press into me and give MORE to me. THIS must be love, in John 8:36 – 37 He spoke to people who struggled to believe and said, “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free … So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father.”
A lifetime of emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse makes it EXTREMELY difficult to accept this sacred love – but that is MY work. It is the HEALING THAT I CRAVE – to fully and ‘right-brain BELIEVE’ that I am loved and worthy. The truth is: I am NOT too broken to love, but the Enemy would like me to believe this. His number one goal is to keep me separated from Sacred Love. He knows that once I melt into Sacred Love – I will be a FORCE to be RECKONED WITH. I WILL BE UNSTOPPABLE. So, I REFUSE to continue my life hiding behind a wall with fear of too much intimacy or abandonment (part of me still believes Jesus will abandon me too). I don’t want to miss the message. I DO want to vulnerably open up and make room in my heart for an all consuming kind of love. I WILL continue to do WHATEVER it takes to RECEIVE and BELIEVE THIS LOVE – no matter how long it takes. When I finally understand, I wonder what kind of message that will speak into my healing journey?
You are not alone.
You are NOT too broken to love.
Rochelle Sadie Psalm 90:15