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The healing power of love

26 October 2012

David Adam concludes his series of 'alleluia'-themed reflections

Before we ever learn to love, we are loved, and it is this free gift - neither earned nor deserved - that gives strength and meaning to our whole being. It comes from God; through our parents; and through rela­tives and friends.

It makes life worth while; and, in return for this gift, nothing is asked, except that we respond to love and give love in return. Where love is poured in, let it flow out to others and infuse all you do with purpose.

When life is a struggle, and every­thing appears to be against you, remember that you are loved. When prayer seems to die, and words will not come, seek to respond to love. St John Chrysostom said: "Find the door to your heart, it is the door to the Kingdom of God." In love, we discover God; in love, the doors of our whole being are opened to a new life, a new world, and we move towards healing and wholeness.

When visiting in hospital, I would often meet people whose wounds would not heal, whose illness found no cure. Though pain was eased, recovery was often halted. I became aware that many such patients had no visitors, and often felt uncared for and un­wanted. Although there were people around them who looked after them, healing often really began only when they dis­covered that they were missed by friends and neigh­bours.

One lady in such a plight received a surprise visit from her daughter. For some reason they had lost con­tact with each other, and the daughter discovered that her mother was in hospital from some­one else. She arrived in tears, and said how sorry she was not to have come sooner, promising to visit every day, and to have her mother stay with her as soon as she was well enough to leave hospital.

From the time of her daughter's first visit, the mother's recovery was rapid. She realised that she was loved and wanted: she felt life was worth while, and began to mend. There are many similar stories.

Not everyone receives love, or is born into a loving home. Many, sadly, carry scars of being unloved, or of being injured in love or be­trayed by loved ones, and their confidence and trust are diminished as a result. Children denied love often hold themselves in low esteem, and do not thrive in the same way as those who are sur­rounded by love. They will be hampered by these feelings until they are loved and accepted by someone for who they are. In reach­ing out in love, we can actually give new life to those who are struggling just to survive.

For many years, my wife Denise and I were short-term foster parents. We looked after children while a mother was in hospital or needed respite care. Most of these youngsters were loved by their parents and concerned about being away from them, but occasionally we had a child who felt unloved by anyone. Usually they were either desperate to please or, alternatively, railed against everything.

Some expressed self-loathing, making it difficult to help them or to build up their self-esteem in the short time they were with us. We learned, time and time again, that love has great power to heal and to bestow confidence.

One child, radiant after strug­gling for a while, was able to say: "It's great here. You really do like me."

This is the last of four edited extracts from Occasions for Alleluia by David Adam (SPCK, £8.99 (CT Bookshop £8.10 - Use code CT895 ); 978-0-281-06577-6).

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