I tear up every time my daughter watches Frozen and gets past all the blockbuster songs to the climax of the movie. What gets me is the scene where Olaf the Snowman explains, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Within minutes of this epiphany Anna is willing to sacrifice her life for her ungrateful sister, who in turn finally realizes that perfect love drives out fear. It must be the most profound and Christian 10-minute segment ever found in a Disney princess movie.
Maybe part of the reason this movie chokes me up is because, by that definition, I can’t think of any human being who truly loves me.
I grew up in a broken home and my parents are still a mess. My husband has changed dramatically since we married and no longer even goes to church. My closest friends have moved away and I struggle to build new friendships.
My children do love me, for which I am very grateful. But I long for the self-giving love of adult relationships.
I do not write all this because I am looking for pity, though I admit self-pity is a constant temptation that I fight. I write this to personalize the painful situation that I believe most souls face!
Large swaths of the population have families just as broken and often much more so than mine. Thinking globally, it’s possible that the majority of the 6 billion people in this world probably go through their adult lives never feeling “truly loved” by another.
In a recent confession I was told that God calls some people to heroic sacrifices to make our hearts larger. And at the start of Lent Pope Francis warned us that those who are comfortable often forget about others and breed the “globalization of indifference.” So I am learning to give thanks for these challenges because my heart has more space for God’s love and can be more sensitive to the suffering of other souls.
In Scripture, God often explains himself to us by analogy to family relationships. God our Father, Mary our Mother, Christ our Bridegroom, fellow believers our brothers and sisters. But what happens when our experience of these earthly relationships is one of emotional pain far more than true love? Is it still possible to experience God’s true love?
I write to witness that you can know the infinite wonder of God’s true love in the Eucharist, even without having the experience of being truly loved by any other person. Many times after receiving the Eucharist, I have mystically and ecstatically felt the Real Presence of Christ flood my heart. Fed by the Bread of Angels, I am not empty – I can share this true love with my family and others.
At the prayer vigil before the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of sharing Christ’s love in today’s culture:
“[Evening is] the most weighty hour for he who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of broken dreams and plans: how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes was the wine of joy less plenty, therefore, the zest – and the wisdom – of life….
“To search for that which today the Lord asks of His Church, we must lend our ears to the beat of this time and perceive the ‘scent’ of the people today, so as to remain permeated with their joys and hopes, by their sadness and distress, at which time we will know how to propose the good news of the family with credibility…
“Grant us this creative charity which consents to love as Jesus loved.”
Have you ever been truly loved? If you have, challenge yourself to share that love with the hurting souls around you who have not been so blessed, and consider prayerfully how to “propose the good news … with credibility” to those who lack an experience of human love.
If you haven’t ever been truly loved, know that God does truly love you, and He can fill your heart even if nothing in your outward circumstances changes. Go with your empty heart to the Sacraments and let it be filled with the Grace that surpasses all understanding.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted in March. It was lost due to some technical difficulties. I reposted it today, April 8, and have tried to repost as many of the comments as I could find.