FOR THE DAY YOU FEEL UNLOVABLE
“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’”
-Matthew 22: 37-40
Dear Sister, Dear Brother, Dear Friend,
We were all created to love God, love each other, and love ourselves. The creation story in Genesis 1-2: 4 confirms that God looked over all of creation and “found it very good.” Human beings were made in the very image and likeness of God. We derive our dignity and worth from our nature as children of the divine Creator.
We do not need to do anything to be worthy of love. And yet, many of us have a gaping wound that makes us feel like we are not good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, funny enough, or deserving of anyone’s time or affection. We sometimes feel we are not lovable. We wonder, how could someone want me, especially if they really saw how ugly I am on the inside? Or maybe we simply see ourselves as basic, bland, or empty. We think there is nothing special about us.
If you are reading this letter, it is because on some level, in some way, you feel unlovable, broken, unworthy, or unwanted. Maybe no one looks at you like you make their heart sing, or no one asks you how you’re doing, or no one holds you when you break down. Maybe you are always left to cry alone. Maybe your dreams to find a friend or a lover or a sense of purpose have not yet come true, and it feels like they never will. Maybe you carry shame for who you are or guilt for what you have done, and you feel like redemption is forever beyond your reach.
I wish I could make your pain go away. I wish I could help you see the good in you, the courage, and the strength. I wish I could wrap you in a warm hug and tell you the words you so desperately need to hear.
But I cannot save you. I cannot convince you of your worthiness, your beauty, your dignity. By the grace of God, you have made it this far. I like the advice of counselors, popular icons, and spiritual people who tell us to make lists of our strengths, talk about our experiences with caring others, explore our feelings through art, and practice self-compassion. Yet I do not believe we can ultimately save ourselves. Rather, as followers of Jesus, our true path to healing lies in embracing the good news that God’s love is for everyone. We were made to love God and our neighbors and even ourselves, for our Creator is a God of love.
We all carry wounds from the oppressive messages of the world, the damaging effects of sin, and the cruel experiences of our lives. These wounds sometimes generate a primal fear that we are inherently unlovable. How do we overcome this brokenness? We cannot do it alone. The truth is that only God can heal our wounds. She alone can convince us we our lovable because in Her, we can experience what it means to be truly and completely loved.
If we open ourselves to God, She will meet us in the darkness and fill us with Her presence. When we are united with God, the Spirit of love overflows from our hearts and works healing and salvation in the lives of others.
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus in Matthew 22: 37-40: “… ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’” God made us for love. First we must love God, for God is the source of everything. And then we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, because we cannot truly love others unless we love ourselves, too.
The tragic secret is that when we dwell in our own misery and pain, we are emotionally paralyzed and spiritually blinded to the suffering of others. If we doubt our own goodness, we fail to see opportunities to connect and serve. Why would we subject other people to our presence if we think we are ugly, broken, unholy, and worthless? And so, believing all these lies, we ignore others, or push them away, or show them only fake, hollow, dead versions of ourselves because we are afraid to show them who we really are. Or worse, we are so blinded by misery and self-pity that we fail to even notice the suffering of others, or care about it, or seek opportunities to serve.
If we open our hearts to God, She will prove we are lovable by loving us. Her love is simultaneously awesome and gentle. It cannot be denied or stopped unless we refuse it, because God would never force Herself on anyone.
You can experience God’s love anywhere and at all times. Pray and ask God to be with you, to hold you, to love you. Search for God’s voice speaking to you in songs, in poetry, in books, in films. Read the Scriptures and listen for the tenderness and mercy of God’s love for you in the moments of your daily life. Open your eyes to beauty in nature, in art, in whatever inspires passion in your heart, and see in that beauty God’s many blessings for us all. In the suffering of your life, open yourself to God’s presence. Allow God to guide you and hold you in your sorrow.
One of the best ways to share in God’s love is through loving other people. God brings us together in many ways. Through loving each other, we love God. As it is written in 1 John 4: 7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” God puts people in our lives and calls us to love the people we meet in different ways. Sometimes we yearn for a certain kind of love that is not yet ours. We may yearn for the kiss of a boyfriend or girlfriend when we are single, or we may yearn for a kind word from the parent we never knew, or we may hope for just one friend to walk down the hallway beside us. As young gay people, we are often minorities in our schools, workplaces, hometowns, or faith communities, and this sometimes makes it harder to find someone to fall in love with or a friend who understands implicitly what we are going through. It might also lead to moments of painful rejection or misunderstanding with people we care about.
It can be heartbreaking to yearn for a kind of love that is not yet ours, and it can be easy to see this absence as proof that we are unlovable. For years, I believed deep down that being single meant that I was not good enough and that no one would ever want me. Eventually, I learned that whenever I felt this way, I should pray the words, “God, please help me to love the people in my life today.” When I offer this request to God, my eyes are opened to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers on the street who I can love with kind words, practical gifts, meaningful conversations, quality time, or humble acts of service. We need to have faith that God loves us and calls us to love one another. This faith is all the proof we need to trust that we are lovable.
I cannot do anything on my own, and I often fall short of being the man I could be. But God is always there to lift me up after I fall. She always helps me get out of the messes I make. She loves me, and even in my moments of exhaustion, sorrow, or rage, Her love calls me to be more and more like Her.
Do not believe the lie that you are unlovable. You were loved from the moment of your conception and you are chosen for good works and blessings by our Lord. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12: 27, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” We have been given the sacred honor and responsibility of being the hands and feet of Christ in the world today. We are his Body and he lives in us. We are each given unique gifts to be used for building up the Kingdom of God, establishing justice, and spreading the good news of salvation to all the world. Let us not waste time dwelling on our failures and imperfections. Let us instead embrace the new life given to us in Christ.
You are loved, and if you invite Her to do so, God will show you how to share that love with others. She will guide you. Whatever happens, God will be with you, and there’s nothing better in all the world than spending time basking in the love of God.