I like Joey. I like him so much I told him I loved him before we even got off the plane. It was technically our second day of dating. I don’t recommend that, I can’t even say with full confidence I should have done that but I did and now we’re here. I will say, though I have regrets in life, that is not one of them. I didn’t say I love you to hear it said to me, I actually told him not to say it back. It was sweet.
I’ve struggled in the past with saying I love you at the wrong time to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. I used to say I love you to get my way, to keep toxic people around, to feel less lonely. I’m not doing that now. I went through a season of growth and healing recently (I think most seasons can have growth and healing but this one specifically was focused on that). But before that season, I went through a season of crippling codependency. Codependency can be defined as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction. That’s the web definition, it’s not a bad one but I could write a whole post just about codependency. I probably will eventually.
The season I found myself in wasn’t codependency with one single person but many. It was a church, a small church. They needed me, and that’s where I kept my identity. I thought it was safe, I tucked pieces of myself in between worship practices and youth nights. I knew what doors you needed to jiggle the keys in order to get in. I could have laid on the old pews every night and called it home. They told me they loved me, and I put more weight into their I love you than I did the Lord’s.
God allowed this community to be taken away from me. I found myself alone for the first time in my life, no friend group, no boyfriend, I didn’t have a lot of family. I was really alone. Before when I found myself alone too long I would find someone to hang out with but that felt cheap in this season. I knew it was a bandaid to mask my pain. So I sat with Jesus and told Him I was lonely, that I was hurting and I wanted so badly just to be held. It wasn’t immediately that I felt peace. I had to really sit and give Him my time. I know He wanted to speak to me, He just wanted to know I was really listening. I had to be honest, I cried more than I have in a long time. I felt crazy.In the past I use to cry out to God. I didn’t know Him well enough so when He didn’t reply when I wanted Him to I thought He wasn’t listening. It’s taken me a long time to start to open up to God again. If you live in lies long enough, the truth feels foreign to you.
“Why are you talking to Him? He wasn’t listening before, why would He care now?”
Those lies were enough for me to swallow my tears and grit my teeth till I fell asleep.
If you’re not listening God that’s fine. I don’t need you, I don’t need anything.
But I found myself a lone and I needed company. I needed His presence. He talked to me. He likes to do that- talk to the needy. I think we’re all needy but He really speaks to those who know it. This is the season I found out who I was, for the first time in my life I felt God’s love. Not for a moment during a worship song but I got to walk in it daily.
Me? You love me?
“Yeah, I do. And guess what? Others do too.”
This was the first time in my life that I entertained the thought that I might be enjoyable just because that’s the way that God made me. That was not a truth that someone could prove to me. No, I had to be still and let God whisper it to me, right into all the cracks in my heart. God started heart surgery. I don’t think I’m done, I have a lot of wounds. I have wounds that were given to me that I can’t even see clearly because I’ve lived with them for so long. I also have self inflicted injuries, whether I knew it or not, I was hurting myself with my years of codependency. Something that I’m sure of is that I don’t NEED any one person. I need people, I need community, don’t get me wrong- I am needy. The lesson I started to learn is that people weren’t made to fill my God sized needs.
When I said I love you to Joey, I knew I didn’t need him to love me back. I mean, eventually if he didn’t love me there obviously wouldn’t be a relationship but I knew I didn’t need that either. It was so freeing. I loved being able to tell Joey I love him before he had the chance to do anything for me. I loved all the ways I saw him reflecting Jesus in Tanzania. I’m still pretty excited about him so I don’t know, maybe reality hasn’t popped my “puppy love” bubble yet but I knew I wasn’t seeing him solely through rose colored glasses. I saw his imperfection, I feel like Jesus showed them to me. None of his shortcoming have really surprised me yet. Easily understood, easily forgiven. I haven’t kept track of his mistakes and I pray he doesn’t keep track of mine. Because if love was a game, I know I’m the one with the attitude problem and he’s definitely winning.
Something I am learning about saying I love you is that it means a little less if your actions don’t follow. Joey and I have been struggling with our physical boundaries. It’s been pretty devastating. I’m actually really thankful that it breaks my heart, I know it breaks Jesus’ heart when we don’t walk in purity. I want to be like Jesus, even when it’s painful. Every time we mess up, the first thing I think is-
This isn’t love.
And it isn’t. If I can’t grow in self control, if I can’t say no and stick to my boundaries then I need to get out of this relationship. I want to help Joey not hurt him. All that to say, I don’t regret saying I love you but for now, I’m going to cool it. If I can’t love Joey well with my actions, I don’t get to use my words to tell him. I don’t want my talk to be cheap.
Maybe I love you is kind of like currency. If money isn’t backed by anything (gold and silver) it’s just a piece of paper. American money isn’t backed by anything, that’s why inflation is a thing I think. When it’s not tied to anything it loses it’s value. I think I love you is the same way, if it’s not backed by our actions then it’s just words. It loses value over time if you don’t tie it to your actions. I like that, I don’t actually know a whole lot about currency so I hope that analogy holds up. I’m pretty sure I can find a Bible verse on this…
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10 ESV
I love that verse. My love was genuine on the plane, and I want it to continue to be. I know I can’t do it without Jesus, the really exciting part is that He’s on my side. However this goes, you better believe that I’m going to look more like Jesus by the end of it. He is the most important and as long as I’m seeking His will I’m coming out on top. I want my love to be a rich currency backed with consistent actions. If I’m spending time with Love, I believe that is available to me because Love Himself is for me.