“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Reading back through my words over the past years leaves me with one resounding theme: self criticism. Each time I write, I seem to point out my flaws for all to see. In a way, I think its a defense mechanism: I will point out the worst parts of me before you get a chance to call them out. That leaves you with paragraph upon paragraph of words that read something like a self-help book. What not to do. If Instagram is a snapshot of the best parts of someone’s life, this blog is a video reel of my shortcomings. Is that really any way to live?
Today, Mike Glenn preached a sermon on Matthew 22: 36-40. Which is funny, because I have been reading through Matthew on my own, and just read Matthew 22 the other day. While I was reading, I made note of two words in these verses that stuck with me. “As yourself.” God must really be wanting to drill this point home to me, because Mike drew attention to these words too. To say “Love your neighbor as yourself,” does two things in my brain. First, It implies that I love myself. And if it is the second greatest commandment, it implies that I love myself a lot. In order to equal the amount of love I’m supposed to show to others, it must be a lot, right? Second, it is a command. Not a suggestion. Just as we are to love others, we are to love ourselves. They are included in the same sentence. The ultimate call to action. If you’re anything like me, though, it is much easier to hide behind your flaws. Call them out, and then use them as a crutch to avoid personal growth.
I think the very idea of loving myself feels wrong…It doesn’t sit right. Our culture is so trained to avoid being conceited or vain, that we are blinded by how great we really are. We subconsciously discount the beautiful parts of our souls, robbing ourselves of the joy that is the essence of embracing God-given beauty. Who am I to be gifted/smart/beautiful? Quite honestly, who am I not to embrace those things? To deny the gifts that my Father wants to lavish on me. To purposefully walk away from the talents and callings that God created inside of me. It is almost sinful, when I really stop to think about it, to not love ourselves. As Mike said today, there is a triangle of love that exists between God, neighbors, and self. If you fail in one of these areas, or ignore it completely, the whole triangle will fail. We are not capable of having one type of love without the other two coming naturally as well. Having trouble loving your neighbor? Sound like a heart problem. Are you loving yourself? Are you loving your Savior?
So, let me use this time to leap out of my comfort zone and say this: I am pretty great. I love people, and have the ability to make others laugh. I am driven, intelligent, and constantly seeking to better myself. I don’t have anything figured out in my life, but that is not my job. There is a God, but I am not Him. And praise Jesus for that! I am passionate about loving on others; However, my triangle is still failing… because I have neglected “As Yourself.” I thought I could just try hard enough with others, to overcome the lack of love for myself. We, as humans, are not designed to be capable of that.
One final thought: I cannot just decide to love myself and make it happen. It doesn’t work like that. The only solution I see is to love Jesus, and press in to Him, until all I can see is His love. Which covers me, and you, and every flaw I could come up with. Now thats beautiful.