I held his hand throughout the entire ceremony. Fingers laced together, sweaty palms and eager hearts. I married a man who had been my friend for many years. A carpenter who still makes me swoon a bit when he walks in smelling like wood, carrying the weight of his day and the force of his love with him. Even after 16 years.
I’ve held his same sweaty palm as I’ve struggled through childbirth, watched the bank account dwindle, worried over my career, and as I watched my mother die. The once shining wedding rings have dulled as I’ve watched that young man become a father who stands up a little slower and whose eyes now crinkle when he smiles. That consistent familiarity is so much better than the excitement of a young romance, and even the expectations I held in my mind when I was standing there at that altar.
It’s real. And solid. And so imperfectly human.
And I actually just love him. I love that woodsy smell, and I love the way he walks. I love the way he still wants to hold my hand and the way he chases after me when I’ve turned inward.
I love the love we’ve built together.
It’s brought me closer to healing and understanding what it’s like to be loved unconditionally more than anything human ever could.
But sometimes. Sometimes there’s an unkind tone or a harsh word, and the humanity of him and me barges right into our living room and brings me to my knees. It triggers feelings of loss and fear because those trauma wounds lurk and the lie that I’m not loved—not really—sucks me right back into the not-enough like a black hole.
And I can look at a man who loves with his whole heart, who reaches for my hand every single day, and feel the soul-hollowing fear of abandonment, the fear of being cast into outer darkness, the fear I know doesn’t belong in the present.
Don’t we all just need to be loved right out of our pain? He quietly reaches for my hand again, and I almost turn away. I hold that calloused hand and try to remember to allow love. Instinct always draws me back to the safe inward space where I’m unable to receive his love because the simplicity of it seems incomparable to the yawning fear of my own pain, but I know I need to intentionally turn back toward him. His hand gentles around mine, and I begin to remember the merciful kindness of a God who creates abundance out of the not-enough.
Learning to be loved is perhaps the greatest spiritual work for those of us who have experienced childhood trauma.
The sacred work done in the quiet of a scarred soul, piece by piece, allowing God to mend that which was broken is a Holy healing, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
We were created to be in relationship, both with God and with each other. Human relationships are a reflection of a God in Three Persons, a God who created us in His image out of an abundance of love so full that it spilled out into a stunningly beautiful creation. The need to love and be loved was breathed into us by a God who existed in perfect love and relationship with Himself. We were made to be loved.
But we live in a sinful world, and all too often, we wound and scar each other. Sometimes that happens when we’re young and we don’t learn from our parents that we’re loveable. And then God begins the great work of mending a broken heart, of creating abundance from the not-enough as only He can.
Creating a bond can be painful when there has been trauma.
Those mysterious neural pathways awkwardly finding a new way in the dark, stumbling as they go, fearfully and wonderfully knitting back together that which was broken. The hand of God never stops creating our innermost being. We teach each other how to be loved by a Father who gave everything He had just so we could be received by Him. A Father who wants nothing more than to hold us close with the hands that are already etched with our names.
A Holy healing.
When we intentionally remember that we are worthy of receiving love from others, and that love is secure and steady, then we can begin to understand that our God loves us with an unshakable, steadfast love that spans the ages.
Learning to be loved brings us straight back to the arms of the One who calls us beloved, and that’s the safest place to be.
How can you let yourself be loved today?
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23, ESV)