Absent Love


Such power exists in something that is so widely misunderstood. Nothing is as deeply fundamental as love, and in the absence of it nothing can exist. Love has no opposite. It is not the difference between love and hate; there is only love, and the absence of it.

Before I found God the phrase “Jesus loves you’ meant absolutely nothing to me because I never experienced ‘love’. The words were not only empty, but mimicking incoherent nonsensical syllables. As I was dying inside, caving in on myself and so completely alone no one touched me, no one spoke to me unless they were pushing change or demanding respect. “Look me in the eyes when I’m speaking.” “Aren’t you going to say anything back?” or turning to the person next to me “Why doesn’t she speak?” “Is she dumb?” They didn’t know or didn’t care the agony that was my life, only that I made a good impression and made them feel good about themselves. I did not speak because I couldn’t. I’d open my mouth to speak but no words would come, and I was so ashamed that I could not let anyone look in my eyes. You might say that in the secular world people can’t have love for  each other because they’re lost.  I have a secret.

I grew up in church.

In the whole of my childhood not once did anyone ever try to understand and love me.

All I knew and all I could feel was the absence of something. The world (church included) told me it was me. I was supposed to speak but I couldn’t. I was supposed to smile but I couldn’t. I was supposed to be fearless but I was always in paralyzing fear. I was supposed to be wanted but no one wanted me. I was supposed to make everyone happy but I could not because all that I had was shame. The one thing that I needed was never given to me – just a touch that did not inflict pain. Some proof that I was worth something instead of expecting me to give and earn my rights when I had nothing, and upfront disappointment when I failed. If only someone acknowledged me. ME. I could have been so different. All I was shown was that I was bad, people were bad, and the world was cold, black, and empty just like me.

As I grew older this firmly set into my being and my want turned into a deep seething hate. There was no hope. There was nothing. I was nothing. Not only did I want to destroy myself, but I wanted the rest of the pointless, miserable world to go with me. The pain was huge and all consuming and it never ended. Each waking moment in each day and even in sleep it was incessant. Rotting my damaged soul. Gnawing and shredding what was left of my heart into a black hole of destruction. For a second of relief I would do anything. Even physical pain is a welcome distraction from the agonizing emptiness. I’ve heard plenty of words mocking those who purposely hurt themselves. Despite it’s common theme this is not clever and only proves a disgusting level of ignorance. When all is worthless, when nothing exists and the soul is dead in a heart that still beats, at least the physical wounds prove that the body lives. I feel that. I’m still here. I’m alive.

It is an attempt to live. If I could distract myself, if I could feel anything other than emptiness for just a moment I did not have to die.

On my bedroom floor, pulling my hair and screaming. Screams that no one ever heard. Hitting my head repeatedly because of the relentless thoughts. Sitting on my hands to prevent myself from inflicting self harm, but I would finally give in because I had to make it stop. Whatever it took; my fingernails, a heavy object, even rubber bands. At the end of a very bad night I’d be covered in swollen oddly patterned bruises, all done to myself. “Please help me!” I’d scream out to no one. “Help me! Help me!” I’d pace, ripping at my scalp, screaming without words because they’d lost all meaning. Falling on my knees and holding the sides of my head where it all took place and grasping my chest over the excruciating pain in my heart. I wanted to tear into it and rip it out. It feels like bleeding on the inside. Claws constrict and claw their way out all while flames burn and blacken.

“God, are you there? Are you real?!”

There was no relief. No end to the agony. I pounded into the kitchen and desperately pushed through the counter space. “Please be there! Please!”

I found a pill container. Some drug laced with twisted hope. I ran back to the desolation of my room and furiously tried to open it. In my panic it could not be done. I slammed it down to break the seal. “Please!” I cried. “I just want something!” 

It opened.

There were only two pills inside.

I screamed and threw it in rage, falling back to the floor in defeat. “I don’t want to live!” I wept. “Don’t make me live!”

There’s something else. A knife. I pictured my blood pouring onto the floor.

I held the knife in my hand, ready to make the first slice.

If Heaven is real, I’m not going there. I paused. Would it be Hell? I looked around me, at the bruises on my body, feeling the swollen marks on my skin and the remembering each day spent alone.

You’re already in Hell.

Terrified, I sat rocking myself. An eternity of this anguished hollowness. Always dying but never reaching death. Maybe there is no escape for me. Torture here, or torture there. What’s the difference?

At least here there is distraction.

I knew no one would ever accept me, so why would God if he were real ever let me in His presence? I was too ugly. Too distorted, dirty, and worthless.

What am I? What have I become?

I don’t want this!

I looked toward Heaven. “Where are you?!” I begged someone to answer.

There was a time before this when I was about to turn 12 that I was invited to a week long Bible Summer camp away from home. At this point in my life I had no friends and certainly never spoke to anyone. “I signed you up.” My mom told me. “Why would you do that?” I answered in shock and anger. My severe anxiety, ever prevalent in varying levels, prevented me from even going out for an afternoon let alone a week in a new place with people I never met before. There was an ever present knot in my stomach and weight on my chest, and a constant disconnect somewhere in my mind. Everything was always too much, but I was not there. I sensed my impending doom. For whatever reason I resigned from fighting and went anyway.

There are certain events in my life that separate different periods and frames of being. That week sparked a change in me that could never be undone. Those people wanted me. They wanted to know me and they wanted to see me without anger, expectations, or disappointment. For the first time ‘love’ began to take a shade of color and glow in me. It was this experience that I looked back on from my despair. These people loved me.

Even though I grew up in church I never saw Jesus in anyone. I never saw any part of his character that showed his merciful love and fairness. Though at the time I didn’t quite recognise what I was seeing, I knew they had something that I wanted. The only something I’d ever seen. It was through the love of His people that I found the love of God.

John 15:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

That’s Jesus talking. That’s Jesus giving a commandment. How sad it is that the love we’re commanded to give as Christ first loved us was absent from every church I’d been to up until my teens.

It was only through recollection of this love that I found hope. There is something. I can have something. 

How is it that God’s people, called the be the embodiment of Christ, can let a person suffer and add fuel to the fire that burns them?

How can they use His name for their spiteful self righteous intentions?

How can they call themselves His children?

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

I never knew you.

Does that hurt? Does the thought of that make your heart reach for Him in desperation?

Who is Jesus? Do you know him? Do you know his character? You cannot give what you do not have.

Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’[h] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”[i]

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to himand bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[j] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Isaiah 29:13 (NLT)

13 And so the Lord says,
“These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.

Where is your heart?

John 8:7-11 (NKJV)

7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up[f]and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[g] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[h] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[i] Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[j] sin no more.”

Did Jesus turn up his nose and spit on this woman? He had no sin. He had every right to leave her in the dust and bask in his own righteousness. Anyone else would have. Instead he chose mercy, because he loved her. Jesus ate with sinners. He befriended the weak and used and uplifted the most unworthy. They were so moved by the love they’d never seen that it shifted their inner being and changed them forever.

You who protest to live as Christ did, do you have his heart? Have you been so shattered by his love that your existence can only be to love and be loved by him? To love as he first loved you.


One response to “Absent Love

  1. Pingback: Valor | In the Loft·

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