I stood in line at the grocery store. Intentionally, I’d left my phone in my pocket even though it whispered how easily it could resolve my anxiety. A tap, a slight scroll, a text could get me through the awkward waiting, but I resisted. I didn’t want to be that girl who escaped into her own private world. I wanted to be present. I glanced over my shoulder and smiled at the young kids swarming around in the shopping cart with their unopened treats. I looked at their mother. She looked tired. I could see it in the way her shoulders hunched forward and her eyes glazed over. I smiled at her too. That connection made her straighten up. She smiled back with a “you understand” nod. At the checkout counter, I chatted about the day. I asked the young man, “What are you really passionate about?” It felt risky to ask such an elaborate question in our three-minute interaction, but I did. His body shifted. “I want to be a chiropractor,” he said and shared briefly about his night classes and balancing a busy schedule. I left the store with bags full of food and a full heart. I did it. I loved them.
Then my next thought came in as quiet as a teenager sneaking in late — People love me.
I wish I could say this was the first time a thought like that crept in the back door of my mind. But it was not. I hear this often. I seek it out often. I want it always. I want strangers to love me.
This isn’t a “I want people to love Christ in me” kind of love. No, I want them to love me. It’s weird saying that out loud, embarrassing almost. But it’s true. It’s also true that I want to love others. I want to be the woman at the grocery store who’s nice to the baggers. I want to connect with the struggling mom and give her encouragement. I want that, but I also want people to see me loving others. If I love someone, that’s good. But if other people see me love — well, that’s even better. I find such consolation in the affirmation eyes of others.
I wonder what it would be like to love without being seen. Loving to be seen is such a temptation. My heart is hungry to be noticed, adored, wanted, praised. If my soul had eyes, you would see me always searching for another hit of love from a friend but also a stranger. I want more and more of it. I am never satisfied.
It’s exhausting living in such a way that I need more. Yet, I know more will never give me the enough I need. I want to love the way Jesus invites us to love in the Beatitudes. Matthew 6:3 says, “ . . . do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing . . . ” If I’m honest, I know what my right hand is always doing, and I secretly want it to be publicized for everyone to see on the nightly news.
My love lacks a purity to it. I don’t love for love’s sake. I love for my sake. And though I could really get sucked down into a heap of grief, shame, and pride right about now, I think there is also a gentle invitation.
God knows. God is not surprised by my addictive need to be known. My impure motivations are not a shock. I want to be loved by strangers, but more deeply than anything, I think I want to be loved by God. I want to know His love in a way that sustains me and secures me. I want to know His love in a compelling way so that I don’t desperately need the praise of anyone else.
Matthew 6:4 says, “ . . . let your giving be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Jesus is talking about a secret exchange.
When I give in secret, God meets me in that secret place. It’s such an intimate place. I have secrets with my husband and secrets with my best friend. To be honest, those are the most tender places in my story. I only keep secrets with my closest people. I wonder if what happens in the secret place with Christ is far greater than the affirmation winks I get from people I pass on the sidewalk.
The invitation isn’t to stop being kind to strangers. The invitation is to be with God in my secret thoughts — those sinful ones that slip in aren’t meant to be silenced, hushed, or ignored. They are meant to be brought into the light with Christ. I let Christ come close to my true heart. I ask God to purify me. I ask God to meet me in the quiet places where my soul searches for love from everyone else but Him. I let my actions be an offering of love instead of a desperate attempt to be loved. I let Him into the hidden chambers of my wandering thoughts. And He meets me with the love I am really looking for.Leave a Comment