The space to receive
Yung Pueblo once wrote that being able to receive love is as important as being able to give love, the trouble with that is that I’ve never been any good at receiving. I didn’t grow up with the tools to know how and life taught me there was always an ulterior motive and that the sooner I figure it out the better chance I have of surviving it. I have struggled deeply with asking for help and then learning to accept it when it comes, the idea I can’t do everything alone and that that’s okay has been a heck of a journey and its an understanding I have come to rather later in life than is ideal.
Love is a complicated thing to often associated with things that aren’t really love at all, the trouble for instance with people telling you you’re beautiful is that it sounds good and people think it’s nice but in a weird way it completely undermines your confidence, its got nothing to do with who you are, it’s out of your control and it fades easily. You can’t build your spirit on something that exists only at the surface. I was used to people wanting to consume me because they fetishised my hair or liked how I looked, and then pretending to be interested in the parts of me that meant something or made up who I am just to get what they want, and then I got used to watching them walk away when they didn’t get it and also when they did, and I got used to letting that reaffirm my belief that those parts of me that were deeper weren’t enough or were too much, or sometimes both at the same time.
A long time ago, or at least it feels like a long time, truthfully I don’t remember when it was but at some point in I guess the past year I asked God to teach me how to receive love, because all I knew at that point was that I had never truly been loved and the pain of that was unbearable and I didn’t want to die with it still being true. I didn’t want to live forever only being half loved because its more survivable somehow, it isn’t and I wasn’t willing to spend the rest of my life living in fear of being vulnerable.
The thing about receiving though, is that in order for it to be possible you have to have the space for it, if you don’t create within yourself the space to receive then it doesn’t matter how good what you’re given is because you won’t have the capacity to hold onto it. You can get a beautiful new coat but if your closet is full you’re either going to have to clear something out or you’re going to leave the new one on the banister and the dog is going to chew a hole in it (true story). If you have no clue where to put the gift or what to do with it then you won’t be able to look after it or protect it and it will break, and some of those little shards will cut you and will be just insidious enough to fit into the space that you did have. The same space that good thing was too big a blessing for and wouldn’t fit into. So the hurt is something you’ll carry long after you loose the gift and all of the joy is gone.
Slowly I’ve been learning to receive grace, I’ve been learning by making space, I’ve been making space by letting go of all the unwanted things that were filling me up and taking up real estate inside me they didn’t deserve, I’ve learned to let go, I mean not instantly it’s still a process but I am finding my peace so much quicker each time I do. I’ve had to learn how to let go of not just my anger and my resentment, even when they seem justified but of my responses in those situations. I’ve learned the hard way that pushing someone away preserves nothing least of all me and hurts more than waiting on them ever would have.
I’ve had to let go of offence and learn that someone else’s words aren’t what hurt but the wound already in me that those words touched. I’ve had to let go of my defensiveness, my need to prove everybody wrong and how easily I take on board the opinions of people that haven’t earned the right to give them. I’ve had to learn to stop building walls, to stop isolating myself and to stop running, self sabotaging and pushing people away in some sort of misguided test where I don’t believe they’ll fight for me so I create my own self fulfilling prophecy where I’m disappointed that they don’t stay even though I told them not to.
The hardest things to let go of were the lies I believed about myself that I wasn’t worth anything, that I didn’t belong anywhere or have anything to offer that anyone could ever want, and that I never would, the belief I didn’t deserve to be valued or loved or cherished because I was never going to be enough. And I had to first accept and then heal the part of me that sought out relationships that affirmed those beliefs.
This as with anything in life that we have to overcome can be a daily battle and a daily, sometimes hourly choice to see the good in it and to keep holding on. The story I make up when it’s all feeling too much is that I was wrong about everything that I ever have been, am now or could become, and that I’m just stuck again in some toxic cycle where I hurt all the time, am too much to handle, am completely unloveable and will be alone forever and that nothing I feel matters so I should just numb it all out and listen to the same old lies as they fall from a new tongue as I settle for any available arms that I can just lay in for a while even if it means ignoring everything that’s important to me. I’m not going to pretend that those days aren’t dark or scary and that I don’t ever let them spiral but I can let you know that I’m winning against them, most days are good days and the darker moments don’t last that long, that the joy of the lord really is my strength and that no matter how long the night may feel the dawn always comes.
This leads me to the other important thing I’ve had to learn, and that is to be intentional with how I am filled, nothing exists in a vacuum and the job I have had alongside all the letting go is to strengthen the parts of me that need holding on to, to nurture my gifts and talents and set healthy boundaries. I’m learning to speak to my self with love and compassion and be gentle even in my mistakes, allowing myself the freedom to fail is important and i’ve learned there’s no use crying out for the chains to break if I don’t let go of what they tethered me too.
I learned this past year that you can’t give without judgement what you are unable to receive without self criticism, if you can’t receive help without feeling weak you can’t give help with perceiving weakness and the same goes for love if I can’t stop treating myself like an unfinished product that has to meet certain requirements to be deserving of love then I can’t embrace all the beautiful scars and flaws that make someone else who they are.
Fast forward to now and honestly there are so many ways life is so good and I fall asleep long before I finish my gratitude list each night but there are areas in which at times I’m also feeling pretty empty, there are days where I struggle to pour out what I don’t have.
I know they say you can’t pour from an empty cup and there are ways that can be true, I know that sometimes you feel like what you have is so small you don’t even count it amongst your blessings anymore, and that we have a natural tendency to want to hold on tighter to what we have left because we have this misconception that it’s easier to give from abundance. I wonder though, if we haven’t first learned to give when we have little whether the more we have the more we can be afraid to loose when we still feel its not enough, but I also know that so often with God the action creates the provision and choosing to keep on pouring is how you get filled up.
I know that there’s hope in feeling empty because I finally have the space to receive what is meant for me and I know that it’s immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine.
So I can’t tell you what’s coming next but I can tell you already in faith that it was worth the wait and each and every lesson along the way.