“I’m just so scared that I’m one mistake away from making you unable to love me,” I blurted out through heavy sobs.
I put my head down on the table, hastily pushing my salad plate and silverware to the side. My crying had reached epic proportions now, especially considering the setting: I was sitting in a booth at a crowded Red Lobster during lunch rush, across from my pastor.
He and I were having a normal lunch, until a mistake I had recently made came up in conversation. It was a little mistake—nothing an, “Oops, you’re right, I’ll do better next time,” couldn’t have fixed immediately. But my mishap unlocked in me my deep-seated and dark fear that my ability to be loved depends on what I do and how perfect I can be.
I didn’t realize it until that moment, but at that time in my life, I believed that every person in my life had a limit for how many times I could let them down before they wrote me off, and for whatever reason, I was certain that I’d hit that quota with my pastor that day.
I could see our server awkwardly dancing around back at the drink station, unsure if she should come check on us or give us some space.
“We’re fine, thank you,” I said harshly when she approached our table with a water pitcher. Her face told me she knew I was bluffing.
My pastor and I returned to our conversation. “That’s not how love works, Lindsay, he said to me gently. “Love does not depend on you being perfect. You are loved just because you are you.”
At this revelation, I cried some more, then nibbled on some cheddar biscuits, and cried more, and apologized to our server, and got a hug, and drove away crying more (and then I swore off that restaurant indefinitely).
It didn’t happen overnight, or even in the next few weeks, but eventually, the Red Lobster Incident—and the unconditional love I received and continue to receive from that pastor nearly eight years later—changed my life forever.
Since then, I have made even more mistakes, made even more people upset, caused a few stirs here and there, and yet, I don’t believe in my brokenness over my belovedness. Rather, I ask for forgiveness, I accept the forgiveness, and then I lean into the love and let it mend me. I let it heal me. I let it shape me into a more complete and healthy version of myself.
I believe in love because it mends the broken.