I had to work until six on Sunday, so I showed up at the Super Bowl party during halftime. Of course, my husband was singing karaoke, and everyone was watching him instead of the halftime show. The host of the party put his arm around me and said, "Everybody loves Jim, and Jim loves you."
I don't think I'll ever forget those words. There's something healing and fulfilling about strangers knowing me by how much I'm loved. In that moment, my identity was Angela the Beloved.
But I haven't always been loved. And neither has Jim. In fact, we've been denied love from some of the people who should have loved us the most. I'd guess such heartbreak is true for anyone reading this. We've all been denied love. And it's one of the most painful things in the world.
I appreciate how Donald Miller explains in Searching for God Knows What that we were created to find our value in others because Adam and Eve were created to find their value in relationship with God. When sin separated us from God, it left behind the place in our hearts that needs filling from someone outside us. But no matter how much someone may love me, their love isn't enough to fill my void.
People who love me are still going to hurt me or disappoint me at times. Even though everybody at that party knows how much Jim loves me, there have been moments where he has hurt me, and I've hurt him. We didn't meant to, but we are human.
That's when we get to make a choice. Are we going to withhold our love in return? Or are we going to keep loving anyway?
The only way the world can ever be healed is if we learn to love anyway. If we don't, this vicious cycle continues.
You hurt me, I retaliate or play the blame game or victim card, and in my bitterness and anger I hurt someone else. On it goes.
When discussing this with my husband, he asked, "But how can I love a person who abandoned me? It would be like loving an employee down at McDonald's. I now don't know the person I once loved any better than a stranger flipping hamburgers."
Here's the thing. That's exactly how God loves us. I know because Jesus used this very example in the story of The Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)
The parable does two things for me:
It shows me how to set boundaries. My worth isn't based on someone else's love. They left, and I'm still whole. I don't run after them when they are leaving. I don't give them more than what they took from me so they can keep hurting me. They are probably going to have to eat some pig slop, and letting them eat it is the loving thing to do.
It frees me to want the best for my enemies. I want them to change their ways and accept mercy. Because I was once in their shoes when I turned my back on God to do my own thing. I didn't deserve His love. Still don't. But He's always awaiting my return. He blesses me in spite of me. And in those moments, I'm overflowing with so much love that I HAVE to share it.
I'm not saying it's easy. Honestly, Jim has let me punch his palms before in place of the face I wanted to smash. Healing takes time. And I will go as far as to say that it's impossible without God. Because only God's love is big enough to fill us to overflowing.
That's the message in my next CafFUNated Mystery. I compare an old couple dealing with dementia with a young couple where the fiancé is thrown into jail unfairly. Both times someone is let down, someone is disappointed, someone could give up on the other. But they choose love anyway.
Though A Mug of Mayhem is set at Halloween, I feel this message is relevant for the upcoming Valentine's holiday. You don't have to be a heroine in a novel to change the world. You already have that power.
All you have to do is love anyway.