Why Love Can Heal Our Soul

All throughout the New Testament, God's incredible love for us is demonstrated over and over. "For God so loved the world…" that He came here to live among us, reveal His heart to us, and do for us what we could never do for ourselves. That is love. When Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, his main concern was that he wanted them to know the depth of God's love, because he  knew that would change them forever.

But why? How does being loved actually change us? I mean, it's nice to be loved. But how does that change me as a person? We have plenty of evidence that this is the case — just listen to the life story of Brennen Manning sometime. His entire ministry has been born out of his experience of being "ambushed by God" and discovering how much he is loved. It changed his life. But again, why would that be? How does love heal?

One of the most important contributions ever to come out of the field of neuroscience is something we call attachment theory. I wish I could describe it here in a few sentences, but that would be impossible. Attachment theory has become an entire field of study. But for our purposes here let me just say that at our core, very early in life, below where we have any conscious control of our heart and mind, we develop a way of bonding to others that is called an attachment pattern. If we are loved well and our emotional needs are met, we can develop Secure Attachment. If love is scarce or even scary, we will probably develop an Insecure Attachment pattern (of which there are several). 

What is so important about this is that our attachment pattern then drives all of the significant aspects of our relational world from that point forward. And since human life is really all about relationships (not having fun or accumulating stuff or seeking fame) our whole sense of meaning and value and joy hang in the balance. 

The good news is that it is actually possible to move from an insecure attachment base to secure attachment. This process is called "Earned Secure Attachment" and it is described beautifully in Curt Thompson's book, The Anatomy of the Soul, which I heartily recommend. An example we are probably all familiar with is that of a teen-age boy who comes from a really messed up home and feels completely lost (a symptom of insecure attachment) until a coach takes him under his wing and gives him the understanding and encouragement he longs for. We have all heard stories of lives that were transformed this way.

The key here is that moving from insecure to secure attachment always requires being loved by someone else. We cannot do this on our own. And when we truly experience God's love, our inner being is moved into a new trajectory toward becoming securely attached. That in turn can change everything else about our life. Of course, this means we need to experience God's love, not just read about it. This is where Christian Formation makes so much difference, because trying hard to be good does nothing to change our core attachment pattern, and because most of us need a lot of help in building the kind of relationship with God that we can actually experience. 

Maybe that is why Paul prayed so much for us to experience God's love.

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