The Power of Love

“Make love your goal”
Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power of Love.’

“Let love be your highest goal”
The Bible

Nothing touches us deep inside like true love. I cannot imagine my life without it – love makes us feel alive. We feel valuable, safe, cared for, connected and content.

I believe that love is the greatest and most powerful of all human emotions. The passion of love is a driving force in our lives. We love our families, we fall in love with another and we know the love of friends. Many are searching for it, some wonder if they have truly found it. To love and to be loved is one of our greatest joys in life and something that we all long for.

“You do something to me.
Something deep inside…
You do something to me
Somewhere deep inside.”
Paul Weller

I love these lyrics by Paul Weller. I think they explain what love can feel like so well. You know that you have encountered love when another person connects with you deeply. What they say or who they are does ‘something, somewhere deep inside’ of us. It moves us. We can’t always explain it or understand it, it isn’t just simply an attraction or the fact they make you feel good. You feel a deep connection to them – an intensity deep in your heart.

Over the years I have learnt that we feel love most when we love others. Yes, another’s love for us touches us deeply too, but we feel love most when WE LOVE. Sometimes I think we can convince ourselves that we feel love most when we are loved more. However, I believe that when the focus is on us, we actually feel love less. The passion and feelings of love come from OUR LOVE for someone else.

This is perhaps seen most beautifully when parents love their newborn children. That baby is not yet old enough to understand how to show us love, and yet we usually feel utterly overwhelmed and consumed by love. It is not because they enter into the world loving us, it is because WE LOVE THEM.

Love is like an energy
Rushing in, rushing inside of me.
– Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘The Power Of Love.’

Love IS like an energy, a blazing fire within us that wants to be with that other person, to love and protect them, to care for and help them. It chooses to see the best in others.

The problem is if we wait to be loved FIRST we may never feel love. This is because love is always something that has to be given before it can be received. We cannot receive something that has not already been given.

Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love. -Leo Buscaglia

This is one of the main problems in the world today. People are so very scared of getting hurt that they fear ‘giving love’ in case it is not reciprocated. They fear giving a deep part of themselves to then find that it has been trampled upon. Such is the world today – people are unsurprisingly suspicious of one another; there is little trust left. Love has been watered down to a fuzzy feeling and feelings can change with the wind.

However, the strongest relationships that have the potential to last the test of time are characterised by people choosing to bestow love as a gift. They love to love, not to receive love. This is when love is given in an atmosphere of grace. Grace gives EVEN when we don’t deserve it. True love is unconditional and selfless. It chooses to stay the long hall and gives up its own rights for another.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. The Bible **

What a challenge.

Do we really love like this?

It involves sacrifice.
It requires endurance.
It chooses to never give up.

And so the journey of love is not easy as I write about here. Love is not the fairy tale we are sold. Love must walk through many challenges. It leaves us open to hurt. Many of us have felt the pain of a broken heart when we loved and the other person walked away. That is one of the reasons our world is full of hate.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Love is daring. It takes risks. It does leave us vulnerable and open, because love is only love when it reaches out and touches deeply. That means there is always a chance that we might get hurt. However, what should we then do – say that we will never love again in order to protect ourselves? But if we never love again, we will not feel or enjoy the intensity of love again either.

Heart collection

There are a lot of things that touch me deeply inside my heart. Over the years I have developed a tender heart that feels love a lot. I have found the more you love, the more you feel love. I have decided to ‘make love my highest goal’ and to spread the aroma of love around – wherever I can, whenever I can, to whoever I can – because there is far too much negativity, criticism and hate in this world.

I want to be known as a person who ‘loved’. Someone that ‘touches others deeply’ because I dared to give love as a gift, unconditionally, whatever the response.

Yes, that does make me vulnerable (and I will always need wisdom to guard my heart so that I am not pulled into foolishness). Choosing to love is risky and I will sometimes find that my love is not reciprocated or it is even betrayed.

And it WILL hurt! 

But I know a love more powerful than all other kinds of love, a love that will always cover over and heal my hurts. A love that is patient and kind, keeps no record of wrongs and never gives up on me – even when I mess up. It’s a love that touches me deep inside, like nothing else. With it’s beautiful, powerful, pure, unconditional nature. It lives within me ‘like an energy’ and flows out of me to others (if I let it). It is the love of Jesus – love in it’s most powerful form – because it is a love that models giving and sacrifice, a love that never fails and always endures.

It’s a love that is all powerful, all consuming and yet tender and full of grace.

It’s this love that shows me what love truly is. It makes it possible for me to keep on loving, even when it feels like I am getting little back. It drives me, gives me energy and helps me to love and respect others and see their needs as well as my own. All because that love found me first.

That is a love that I can ‘make my goal.’

When I felt suicidal at Christmas following an extremely difficult year of illness and felt unable to endure any more, I wrote the card pictured below to my husband and kids telling them how much I loved them. And as I read through the words… “Love bears ALL things, believes ALL things, hopes ALL things and endures ALL things..” they pierced my heart.

Love wouldn’t give up – love couldn’t give up. It had to keep on going, search for renewed hope and believe that things would get better. 

That is the power of love. 

FullSizeRender (2)

Even amidst this very difficult season of my life, I’ve had to learn – even when I can’t do other things – I can still love and receive love. I can know that I am loved and allow that love to fill me again so it can flow through me to others – even when I feel completely broken.

Surely if that is the ‘highest goal’ and purpose of our lives then that is all we need.

So I hope I will always choose this way of love, even when it leaves me vulnerable, even when I have to endure. Because true love is more powerful and more incredible than we ever imagined.

And it is definitely worth living for. 


*Verse from 1 Corinthians 14:1 in the NLT translation of the Bible

** Verses from 1 Corinthians 14:4-7 in the NLT translation of the Bible

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Learning To BE

Walk with me
Let’s forget the what-might-be
And slow to now.
– Speak Brother (Slow to Now)

These beautiful lyrics are a reminder that we sometimes have to slow down enough to live in THIS moment. To not let life rush us by. To make the most of every experience and to enjoy sharing those moments with others. Forgetting the ‘what-might-be’s’ and learning instead how to ‘slow to now’ so that we can be fully present;

Today
Now
In this moment.

The challenge of learning to BE, is just that. It’s about being present now, today; whatever today may bring. To not be defined by what we do or the titles we own.

Instead it’s about being:

ME, simply me, NOW.

This is probably one of the main lessons I have been learning over the last 18 months.

To be fully present TODAY, not distracted by fighting the limitations I currently face or the unknowns of tomorrow. But instead choosing to embrace THIS MOMENT and making the most of the opportunities I have HERE.

It’s not been easy. In fact, I have probably found it harder than any other point in my life. Because when you are dealing with difficult circumstances it is so easy to miss the wonder of the small things that still surround us. And yet, I have set out to learn and change for the better. To learn how to ‘let go’ of the unknowns, even when it’s so hard and when the future can seem so uncertain.

It’s a journey.
I am still learning.
I face the daily battles everyone else faces in their minds. (Particularly those of us fighting serious/ chronic illness or other turbulent circumstances).

And yet I hope that in sharing what I am still learning that we might learn together and in that way my journey might just help someone else.

Learning to Be copy

So how do we learn to BE?
It all sounds deep, but what does it really mean?

LETTING GO

Recently I have learnt a lot about the need to ‘let go’. To realise that there is so much I can’t control that I can only let go of. To choose not to allow worry and anxiety to take over and constantly dictate my mood and behaviour, overshadowing all I do.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own. – Matthew 6:34*

Worry and anxiety are usually caught up in our fears of the future and the ‘what if’s’. When we allow them to take over our thoughts they pull us to a place where we feel out of control and where the future feels beyond what we can cope with. That is what happened to me during the dark days at Christmas 2015 that I write about in ‘Breaking Through the Darkness.’

Letting go is often challenging, because you feel like you are letting go of everything you can’t control one minute only to find yourself taking it back the next. It actually takes learning new disciplines of the mind to learn to replace negative thoughts and learn how to redirect them.

It can often feel like an exhausting battle. But I do believe it is possible to find ways to replace negativity with positive thoughts and perspective.

On a practical level, deep breathing & relaxation can be a good outward form of letting go that can sometimes help us to deal with the inner things. The physical action of breathing in deeply then breathing out slowly can help us to let go of some of the tension and anxiety in our bodies.

BEING GRATEFUL AND THANKFUL

“It is not happiness that makes you grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes you happy.” David Steindl-Rast

These words are from David Steindl-Rast’s TED talk; ‘Want to be happy? Be grateful’. He talks about how we can learn to be grateful in EVERY given moment. It’s about a thankful perspective; CHOOSING TO SEE what we DO have instead of focusing on what we DON’T.

This is so important. Especially when we are dealing with difficulties in our lives. The storms in life have a tendency to pull us into them so that we can’t always see what we DO still have and the things that we CAN still be grateful for.

For me, gratefulness is often directed towards God. I daily try to thank Him for all the wonderful things in my life. We can learn to develop a daily habit of being thankful – practically we can write things down, pray about them or just choosing to focus our thoughts on them.

“I think that many times we let what should be extremely special to us—things we should be extremely grateful for—become too commonplace”. – Joyce Meyer

LEARNING TO SEE WHAT IS AROUND US

Learning to BE allows us to open our eyes to SEE more of the wonder of the world around us. To notice the beauty of nature and the joys of human relationship. We can become more aware of our surroundings. Taking time to look more deeply and discover new things.

I have walked a lot in our local area over the past few months and discovered so many new places I had never been before. Sometimes there can be beauty all around us but we miss it because of our busyness or the distractions in our mind. Some days we need to be intentional about looking to SEE what is ALREADY around us.

REDISCOVERING PURPOSE

I believe that we are all designed to have a purpose; a role in this world that only we can fulfil. Endeavours that help us to feel alive and make our mark on the world. However, ask anyone who has faced having to ‘give up’ what they love to do due to injury, illness or other circumstances and they will probably tell you how hard it’s been.

Our identity is so caught up in ‘what we DO’ that when we can no longer DO those things we can feel purposeless. It feels like our life is of little value anymore.

Scott Dannemiller writes:
“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)…. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

I have definitely grappled with this over the past 18 months and wrote about it in Is Busyness A Choice?.

WHO AM I WHEN I CAN’T DO ANYTHING?

It is actually these seasons that draw out the deepest questions about our identity. Who am I really? We have to search for new meaning and purpose because it is not always obvious.

I have had to learn that I am valuable without having to DO anything. I have a place in this world just being me. And whatever the limitations are, there are still so many things I CAN DO:

  • I can love others.
  • I can hold my family and speak words of love and encouragement to them.
  • I can use my words to encourage and help others going through hard times.
  • I can choose to be grateful for every blessing, big or small and communicate that to others.
  • I can keep enduring through the trial so that we can all learn through it and that those coming behind me can have an easier path.
  • I can broaden my mind by listening to other people’s thoughts and ideas.
  • I can go deeper in my faith by spending time listening to and speaking with God in the quietness and allowing His words to shape my heart, heal my hurts and reignite my hope and purpose.

FINDING PEACE AND REST AMIDST THE STORM

Is it really possible to learn how to find true rest and peace in any moment, even when those moments are stressful?

I believe it is. I write about it in this post.

We can learn to manage our emotions rather than allowing them to manage us. –Joyce Meyer

But I also believe that we have to learn new ways to deal with negative circumstances so that they don’t pull us into a cycle of negative thoughts.

The fact is physical rest is NOT always good for our minds. We DO need to rest and we certainly DO need quietness. But sometimes the silence can be deafening, especially when rest is enforced. This is because rest can cause our minds to go into overdrive. Our thoughts take over and if they are more biased towards the negative, silence can make them worse. (Think of times you couldn’t sleep because your thoughts were ‘so loud’).

So we need to have resources that help us to be still and restful and yet simultaneously focus on more positive things. Music and meditations are good. I also love listening to inspiring talks like TED talks, other people’s stories of trials they have faced, as well as teaching and inspirational messages that encourage my faith. These help me to focus my mind and gain a better perspective through prolonged rest.

Learning to Be be still and know copy

So I am again choosing to ‘learn to Be’. I am not yet fully recovered from my CSF leak journey. Whilst some of the symptoms linger I have no choice but to learn a new way of living in which I cannot DO everything I would like to do.

But instead of fighting this season and getting worn out as I did at Christmas, I have to ‘let it roll’ to a certain extent. Yes, there are many things I can do and can change that will help my situation and I need to celebrate those. But I also have to realise that there are also many I just cannot change myself. So instead of frustration consuming me, I have to learn, each and every day to ‘let go’ of the ‘what may be’s’ and ‘slow to now’ so that I can savour;

Every
Beautiful
Moment
That STILL exists HERE.


Please do comment below and share some of the things you have learned about ‘living in the moment.’ You never know, it might really help someone who is struggling.

You can listen to Speak Brother’s song ‘ Slow to Now’ here.

*Verse from the NIV translation of the Bible.  (The verse in image from Psalm 34:14 is from the NLT translation of the Bible)

To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.