Trusting Other People to Love Us
I just finished reading the second book in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. (Ok, skimming the end. It was not nearly as good at the first one in the series.) In the book, something happens between Claire and her husband, Jamie. It’s something that they’d both promised wouldn’t happen and she’s afraid to tell him about it. When he finds out, he’s mad but he’s more upset that she didn’t trust him to love her.
But the knowledge that ye thought ye couldna trust me to love you is like waking from the hangman’s noose to feel the gutting knife stuck in my belly.
(He’s Scottish and it’s 1744.)
I read that line over and over.
She didn’t trust him to love her and that hurts him infinitely more than the action itself.
In the first Outlander book, something terrible happens to Jamie and he begs Claire to just let him die. But she doesn’t. She heals him body and soul. He begs her to let him die because he doesn’t think he is lovable after what happened to him. He thinks he’ll never be a whole person again. Claire proves him wrong. She loves him through it, proving that she can be trusted to love him through anything. And she doesn’t think he can love her through this more minor thing?
What do we hide from people because we fear rejection or judgment? We don’t trust people to love us after they know the truth about us. So we don’t tell them. We’re worried that there is something wrong with our insides so we don’t share them.
I know several people who went through big, bad things that no one knew about until they hit rock bottom- got arrested, went to AA, got divorced. Several of them even pushed people away in the midst of it. I was so mad at them for not telling me. How did it get so bad? Why didn’t you think you could talk to me? I wanted them to know that they didn’t have to carry it all. I wanted them to know they were never alone. I wanted them to trust me to love them.
I admit that when I’ve gone through hard times I didn’t tell anyone, either. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. It felt like too much. I told little pieces to a few people but everything to no one. I plastered on a fake smile and muddled through.
I spent twenty-six years hustling for God’s love. I thought I had to work hard to be good enough. I had to rearrange myself into something lovable and worthy. I thought God’s love was earned and our points were tallied on a giant chalkboard in heaven. How could God love me as I already was? When I was a pastor, I would finally have earned enough points. I thought it was the only way.
I spent twenty-six years trying to make myself worthy of God’s love. If only, I read my Bible every day and prayed for an hour. If only, I stopped dating that guy. If only, I stopped having rude thoughts about that girl’s short shorts. If only, I stopped drinking or exercised more or did mission work in South America for two years and wore a hair shirt. If only, I could take back every horrible thing I ever said or did. If only, I was better. If only, I was someone else entirely. Maybe I could love this new person and then, maybe, God could love that person, too.
I did not trust God to love me.
I’m not sure what the secret is to trusting other people or God to love you. It can be hard, especially if you trusted someone in the past and they proved themselves to be untrustworthy. The more I thought about this, the more I wanted to know how to become someone that people trusted to love them. I wanted to make the decision easier for other people. This week, I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It is a lovely, lovely book. In one scene, the main character, Eleanor, is walking with her friend.
Raymond walked quickly, and I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep pace with him in my new boots. I noticed him glance at me, and then he slowed his steps to match mine. I realized that such small gestures—the way his mother had made me a cup of tea after our meal without asking, remembering that I didn’t take sugar, the way Laura had placed two little biscuits on the saucer when she brought me coffee in the salon—such things could mean so much. I wondered how it would feel to perform such simple deeds for other people.
Maybe that’s the answer. It's the consistent, simple deeds. It’s slowing your pace to match your friend’s. It’s offering to make your husband tea when you put on the kettle. It’s remembering birthdays and texting your friend if you haven’t heard from them in a while. It’s the still, small voice inside your heart saying, “You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.” It doesn’t have to be a boom box outside their window. It’s small, daily reminders that you hear them, you see them, and you love them. When they know they don’t have to hustle for your love, that it’s freely given, then maybe they’ll trust you to love them through whatever they’re going through. And that, my friends, is holy ground.