I was sitting at an intersection yesterday, passing the time between stop and go by studying the car in front of me. Vehicle: a rusty, broken, and tired Toyota. Driver: young lady, no more than seventeen and blissfully unaware of her surroundings. A sound system that was worth much more than the car itself vibrated everything from the windows to the doors to the license plates.
Vanity plates, of course. If you’re seventeen and cool, vanity plates are a requirement.
They also say a lot about a person. Vanity plates are tiny windows into a personality, a creative assemblage of letters and numbers that offer a glimpse into what matters most to the owner.
And it was pretty obvious what mattered most to that young lady. Her license plate used the term “vanity” in a more literal way.
ILUVME, it said.
I shook my head and grinned in an I-can’t-believe-this sort of way. ILUVME? Really?
A little arrogant, I thought. Then again, maybe there was much to love in being her. Maybe she really did love herself, and justifiably so. Maybe who she was, what she knew, and the direction her life was going was so perfect, so wondrous, that loving herself was natural and right and good.
If true, then she should give herself a little time. Five years or so. Maybe ten. Let her grow up a little and get out into this big, beautiful world. Let her dreams crumble, her heart break, and her faith bend. Then we’ll see how much she loves herself.
I wrinkled my brow, struck by the coldness of those thoughts. Was I really that pessimistic of a person? Was I really hoping for her life to unfold such that she would one day regret putting such a thing on her license plates?
Why was I so upset because she loved herself? Was it because she possessed something I did not?
Did I love me?
An interesting question, that. Are we supposed to love ourselves? I flipped through the pages of my mental Bible for any scripture that confirmed or denied that question, but nothing stood out (though, admittedly, the pages of the Bible I hold in my head are not nearly as complete as the pages of the one I hold in my hand).
But I did know this: whether I was supposed to or not, I certainly did not love me. I knew my weaknesses and faults. The hidden things I thought and said and did. I knew what I paid attention to and what I did not. The struggles I faced, the times I feared and worried and doubted too much. What and who I hated. I knew, more than anyone else, the kind of person I was.
And that was not the sort of person anyone could love. Should love.
Besides, the point of life isn’t to be content with the person you are, right? No, it’s to try to do and be a little better every day. To keep becoming. That’s tough to do when you’re happy with who you are. When ULUVU.
Still, something bothered me. Wouldn’t hating yourself for who you are, for what you feel and think and do, be just as bad?
My thoughts were interrupted by the stoplight turning green. ILUVME turned left, and as I watched her I realized she was pulling into the parking lot of a church. Black letters that spelled out GOD IS OUR FRIEND glittered in the sun on the marquee at the entrance.
Yes. God is our friend. My friend. So powerful that He could do anything, He chose to die for me. So omnipresent that He could be anywhere, He chose to live in my heart. My heart. Not because He had to. Because He wanted to.
Because God loved me.
Loved me despite knowing my fears and worries and doubts. Despite knowing my failures and faults. Despite knowing me better than I knew myself.
If an all-powerful, all-knowing God could love me, why couldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I?
The foundation of the Christian faith states that we are flawed beings. Sinful souls in need of a Savior. I knew that to be true. Perhaps just as true, though, was that our worth didn’t depend upon what we did or did not, but upon the spark of the Divine that gave us life. There is a beauty within us beyond our flaws and failures. A beauty worthy of our compassion, of our acceptance.
And of our love.