Begin with Love

May 20 / Hannah Souter
Several months ago, while sitting in front of my makeshift windowsill altar, I asked God to help me connect with Their love for me. Sometimes I ask God for things and nothing really here nor there happens, but this time a memory started to form in my mind’s eye. I recalled a doll I had while growing up; a small Inuit girl with thick black braids tied in red yarn, wearing a blue patterned dress with ruffles near the hem. I remembered sitting on the edge of my bed holding her in my arms and stroking her hair. Then it came to me. I think that doll was part of a book! Sure enough, after a few minutes of google-ing, I found Mama, Do You Love Me, by Barbara M. Joosse. I ordered the book to read later, but the title itself served as a mirror, helping me see more clearly my heart’s question that day. 

The question, Mama, Do You Love Me—and the embodied memory of myself as a 6- or 7-year-old girl sitting on my bed—drew out a deep, childlike tenderness in me and cultivated my hope in the deep, mothering tenderness of God. I experienced those few moments as an invitation to rest in the ever-present mothering of God; in a parental safety that comforts me, empowers me, and frees me to risk, to dream, to test, to dance, to enjoy, and to receive. Isn’t it true that when we know we are loved, we believe we can fly?

When I begin my day (or my work, or my activities, or my relationships, or my challenges, or my decisions, etc, etc) with the security of being loved, everything takes on a new light. I feel brave and have access to a place of wise sturdiness in me. When I’m beginning anything in shame or fear, whatever I see feels black and white and full of exaggerated consequence. My heart grows small, my thinking becomes stormy, and my energy freezes over.

Most things (perhaps all things) become less scary when we turn on the light. And that light, I believe, is the light of love. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 36, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

How do we step into that light of God’s love? What practices help us find that steady place, that secure base?

These days, for me, that practice looks like saying thank you for the beauty of daily life. It looks like finding a gentle tone for my self-talk. It looks like playing Adele on Spotify and dancing in the kitchen with my eyes closed. It looks like connecting with my body through breathing, rocking, and going on walks with friends.

What empowers you to see the world (and yourself) in love? Let’s begin there together today.

Hannah Souter
Hannah Souter is the Assistant Director for the Institute for Pastoral & Congregational Thriving at Portland Seminary, where she also earned a Masters in Ministry Leadership. Hannah served as a pastor in SE Portland and now works at Leadership Center—helping leaders grow in personal and organizational wellness. Hannah is a born and raised Portlander. She and her dog, Teva, like to play outside and have dinner parties with friends.