On a quick perusal of my stats here, I noticed that someone had visited my blog based on the search string pray for the unlovely. If you’ve been reading me very long, you’ll know that probably my number one, all-time favorite hymn is My Song is Love Unknown, purely for the first verse:
My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless
Shown that they might lovely be.
And who am I, that for my sake,
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?
Having experienced more episodes of depression than I would care to (well, one episode being more than I would care for, but I’ll just say it’s been more than one), I have some experience with feeling loveless, unloved, unlovely. In fact, for several years I was firmly convinced of my complete, fundamental unlovability.
Of course, this is complete hogwash. There’s not a single completely unlovable person on the planet, and there never has been. Yes, there are plenty of people who are hard to love, and somehow it’s really hard to love ourselves as we deserve. Sometimes it’s hard to see the image of God in the people around us – especially, for some reason, the people closest to us – and it’s often hard to see this in ourselves.
But I do pray for the unlovely. And my prayer isn’t, “God, I’m so glad I’m not unlovely like them.” Rather it is a prayer that everyone who feels unlovely will come to know how deliriously in love with them God really is, how much love is extravagantly, profigately, wastefully poured out for them. And I pray that they will come to see the love that is directed at them from others in their lives, others whom they may not even recognize. Sometimes, a kind and generous and loving remark will come out of the blue, and we think, “Wow, I had no idea!” I pray that once in a while, I will be the person making that loving remark. I pray that when I encounter someone as unlovely, that I will find that image of God within them, and that I will come to cherish and love them. (I’ve learned that you don’t always have to like someone to love them. And that the prayer, “God help me, because I just can’t love this person on my own!” may be one of the most powerful I’ve ever prayed.)
We’re all flawed and unlovely – every last one of us – and the hard part is, we know it. But we are all loved beyond measure, treasured beyond price.
Love to the loveless?