I’m one of those people who have a tendency to save things. I save those extra buttons that come with new shirts, but don’t ask me where I put them because I don’t know. I save gifts I’ve been given, even when I’ve outgrown the use of the item. I save gift bags to reuse, but not tissue paper because that’s just too much work. I save cards with heartfelt handwritten words from friends so when I forget my worth, I have a reminder.
Some would call me a packrat, and I would agree. I had the messiest room as a kid and underneath my bed was the best place to lose items and never to see them again. As an adult, my house might appear different, but if you opened closet doors and peeked under my bed, you would see I haven’t changed too much. I keep thinking I should get organized and clean things up and throw things away, but it’s hard.
I can’t seem to sustain any system for long so I end up on these purging binges. This might seem awesome–the crazy packrat lady is actually throwing things away–but I take it too far. I do get rid of things I don’t need, but I get rid of things I still need. I can’t seem to find the right combination of throwing things away and keeping things. And if I put something in a “safe” place it’s as good as thrown away because I can’t remember where I put it.
I see these tendencies in my heart as well. I keep behaviors and patterns of thought that should have been thrown out of my life. I cling to my belief that maybe this love of God is really too good to be true, and I might just wake up and be thrown away so I hold myself back from him.
But this holding of myself back has consequences as well.
“The most important [commandement] is, ‘Here, O Isreal: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 NIV
When I hang onto disbelief, it’s hard to love God with everything I am. When I cling to resentment, bitterness, or unforgiveness, loving him and others is not possible because these things stand in the way of giving myself totally and completely to Him.
I’m learning to live aware of the state of my heart because I know that resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness harms me more than it harms anyone else. It also makes it difficult to fulfill the second commandment: “Love my neighbor as myself.”
When I’m judgmental of myself, I judge others.
When I’m annoyed with myself, I’m annoyed with other’s.
When I’m disgusted over my own actions, it’s easy to be disgusted over someone else’s actions.
How I feel about myself reflects on how well I love others. If I don’t love myself, I can’t love my neighbor. If we could see ourselves the way God sees us–through eyes of love, then loving our neighbors would be easy.
But it’s not. We know our weaknesses. We know our flaws. We know this journey to holiness is a lifelong journey, and we know the battle between the sin nature and the spirit nature rages within.
Loving ourselves has to start with loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and body. This is where we learn that we are lovable because as we love God we begin to see things his way. I know I’m flawed. I know perfection is a myth. I know my weaknesses, but I know I’m strong when I trust in God. I know my flaws can become facets that reflect his glory. I know that in him I am made complete.
If I can look at myself in a mirror and remember these things, I can actually love my neighbor well. Beth Moore writes in Believing God, “My obedience flowed directly from my faith to believe I was who God said I was even when I didn’t feel like it.”
There are times I don’t feel like I am who God says I am, but I choose to believe it because I want to obey his commands of loving him with everything that is within me and loving my neighbor as myself.
Loving myself doesn’t mean that I get to go buy the latest pair of shoes I have my eyes on, or the purse that’s simply amazing. It doesn’t mean being selfish with my “me” time. It doesn’t mean that I get what I want when I want it. Loving myself doesn’t mean I put my needs and wants above others.
Loving myself means embracing the truth of what God says about me so that God can use me to reveal himself to others.
Loving myself means allowing God to transform me into a truer reflection of himself and going smaller so that he can go bigger.
When I struggle with loving my neighbors, the struggle can usually be traced back to my thought-life about myself. When I’m rattle with insecurity, I’m ruled by fear in my relationships. When I’m overtaken by a tongue that throws sharp darts, it’s usually because my thought-life is filled with sharp and unkind words.
The struggle to love is true and real. It’s evidenced all around us in our world, our communities, and our homes. But what if we all determined to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies, and let him change us from the inside out and to love ourselves as he loves us–beloved children, made for a purpose that only we can fill, righteous, holy, and reflectors of him to this world. If we did, loving our neighbor as ourselves might become a little easier.