Faint residues of a memory of Perfect Love seem to flit at the edges of human consciousness. Such memories are so weak that they are easily ignored. They remain, however, the core of our deepest desires… David G. Benner
One of my favorite-ever reads is a small book written by Dr. David Benner entitled Surrender to LOVE.
Dr. Benner, a psychologist and spiritual director, is both scholarly and vulnerable in describing the lifelong process of surrendering to the unconditional love of God.
I’ve struggled with a sense of feeling loved since I was a child. I was blessed with good parents. Meeting the needs of their four children was my parents’ highest priority. I knew my parents loved me, and yet, most often, I felt unloved.
Thoughts about God’s love toward me were similar. I believed God loved me, but more often than not, I couldn’t trust God loved me simply for who I was.
I carried my partially full love tank into marriage, and when my first marriage ended in divorce, I was more convinced than ever of my unlovability (an apt descriptor even though I realize it isn’t an actual word!)
The first 10-15 years of my current marriage were marked by recurring incidents when I challenged my husband’s love. Almost without exception, every marital disagreement we had ended with me saying these words: “Ron, I just want you to cherish me!”
After many years of these declarations, (my husband is a very long suffering man) Ron said something like this: “Sue, I think I cherish you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone, but obviously, you don’t feel cherished by me.” Then, my husband asked me one of the most soul-searching questions I’ve ever been asked:
“If I could love you in a way that would make you feel cherished, what would that look like?”
At first, my husband’s question annoyed me. Like other women I know, I assumed my man should be able to figure out what my emotions needed and wanted!
Yet, the more I thought about Ron’s question, the more I realized it was fair—actually, a very good question. More importantly, though, I sensed discovering the answer to his question was pivotal to demolishing my pervasive perception of being unloved and unlovable.
I not only thought about that question. I began praying about it as well.
Several weeks passed. One day, just as clearly as if gazing through a freshly-washed window, my ‘soul’ figured out the answer to my bewildered husband’s question:
No human being is capable of cherishing you in the way your deepest being longs to be loved. Only God is able to do that.
In that moment my belief in God’s unconditional, never-changing love transitioned into trust.
Dr. Benner poses a scenario and asks a question in the first chapter of his book: Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?
If I were to give Dr. Benner my answer, I’d tell him about the experience I had later on that same day I realized the answer to Ron’s question. While walking down the hallway in our house, I felt an overwhelming surge of love—nothing visual or tangible—but nonetheless, undeniably real. I was filled with such a profound sense of God’s love that I stopped in my tracks and said, “Wow! God you really truly cherish me, don’t you!”
Since that day some 20 years ago I’ve never once felt the urge to complain about Ron’s inability to ‘cherish me.’ I’m married to a terrific man. I know he loves me in the best way he can. But, Ron doesn’t have the capacity to love in the way only God can love. Every once in a while, therefore, I need to remind myself, ‘Hey, Ron’s just a guy!’
My prayer for you this day is that you will in some way, on some level, sense the unfathomable love God has for you—a love that’s as high as the heaven is above the earth!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
- Surrender to LOVE…Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality, David G. Benner ↑