There is a big sign written out on white butcher paper hanging up behind my desk at work. It’s full of bright marker colors written in various handwritings, as if an entire village got together to write out their thoughts.
The handwriting belongs to all the people I get to work with. Every handwritten note represents one person’s fears and insecurities. They are each like small, cruise ship windows into the deepness of the writer’s mind. Little snapshots of what they think about while staring at a dark ceiling each night.
One says they are afraid of being inadequate, another feels too broken to lead. There is one in the middle that is afraid of people not accepting her, and another doesn’t think he is worthy of being loved or looked up to. Because, he says, he just feels so lonely and helpless.
The butcher paper is bright white, fresh. There aren’t any stains and the handwriting is uniquely original and neat. Everything looks in order.
But the words, the words in the cruise ship windows, betray a secret that the bright marker colors don’t wish to divulge. The words leak tears cried in the past. Emotions felt in isolation, in lonely bedrooms with base line heartbeats. When crying or cutting or drinking seemed to be the only answer.
Cries for intimacy bleed out onto bright, white butcher paper with neat handwriting.
Like an entire village got together to write out their isolation.
I have my own insecurity, my own small contribution to the white butcher paper town with its entire-village handwritings.
Mine is Inability to Love.
I am fearful that for some reason I will never be given the ability to love like everyone else. Somewhere my emotions will be washed down the toilet and into the farm where all our dead fish go.
My handwriting is neat on the wall. The color is bright, trying to make my fear a little less scary, a little less real. But the words give it away.
I’m afraid I have an Inability to love.
I think it began when I was fourteen and wondering each day what love looked like. It began when I said goodbye to the first girl that made me wonder that.
Her hair perfectly framed her face and she had this way of looking down and to the left when she became embarrassed.
I told her I thought I was falling in love. I was young and naïve and blinded, but the feelings and thoughts were authentic. They stood bright and clear like a white butcher paper sign.
But when she left, my fourteen-year-old heart began to wonder whether I had what it took to love someone in the way it mattered. I wasn’t able to love her. I wasn’t able to love her and she left because of it.
Would I be able to love anyone else?
I sat in my lonely bedroom and felt like crying.
Now, years later, I am plagued by questions.
Am I capable of love? Have I been given the ability love someone? Will I ever find love and grow into it?
Most days my answer is yes. I believe that God puts desires in our hearts for reasons.
But on some days, on some days I am not so sure. I climb in a car by myself and drive to work with an ache in my gut. I look back at previous relationships, ones that have ended on me and others I have ended on, and discover a dull ache.
My fear of an inability to love rises to the surface, bobbing above the water long enough for me to see it and pull it aboard. I sit by it, chained to its gravitational pull, and wonder what love looks like.
My inability to love is just one fear on a butcher paper sign full of them. I am not alone in my fear, and we are not alone in our struggle. Our cruise-ship window town may be isolated, but we are together in our pain.
I’ve heard it said that we should carry each other’s burdens. Paul talked a lot about that in the letters he sent to his friends around the area. He said that we should come alongside people when they are hurting. We shouldn’t let them take advantage of us, pretending to be hurt in order to loaf off of us, but we should help carry real, legitimate, and heavy burdens.
That’s part of living life right. Part of being good humans. Part of loving Jesus.
And I’ve found Jesus to be the best at doing this, at taking a load and a burden and putting it on his shoulders. He loves lifting our burdens off our shoulders and onto his. More weight than we could ever think or imagine. So much so that it surpasses our understanding. He is amazing at it.
He even told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When we are working next to him, our load feels lighter.
But I think we are supposed to ask for help. There is a verse in Philippians that says we shouldn’t be worried about anything. That instead of worrying, we should pray and say thank you to God for the sunshine and the birds and the very fact we are breathing. Then it says we should tell God our burdens and worries and fears and insecurities. We shouldn’t hide them, shouldn’t just say thank you and pretend like we aren’t fearful. We should tell him and entrust them to him. Then the verse says we will experience a peace that “surpasses understanding.” A peace so strong that we will not be able to understand it.
This peace is beyond understanding because it is unimaginable and fluttering just below the surface, as deep as it is wide.
We get to ask and Jesus gets to give it.
The butcher paper sign on the wall behind my desk has more writing on it. On top of each fear is something else written in the same handwriting. It is what Jesus would say to every fear of every person living in our small cruise-ship window village.
Over insecurity there is trust. Over fear of being rejected there is acceptance. Over worry there is peace.
Over my inability to love there is written loved completely. Totally, fully, wholly, and beyond imagination. Completely.
I am working alongside the man who loves me completely, and he is doing more than I could ever imagine, causing a peace I will never understand.
I still get scared about never loving someone; but Jesus promises peace anyways.