Love myself? Ack!!!
Twin discoveries from our life of love group: 1. Every week the topic of “loving ourselves” has come up, and 2., I have some inner resistance to that phrase. Oh, wait: discovery three: If I loved myself in the way that God loves me (or if I, in other words, allowed God to lead me in how I think about myself, feed myself, forgive myself, etc. etc.), I and everyone around me would be better off. Ouch. “Let me ‘splain; no, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
Have you ever said to someone who was in some destructive habits, “Take care of yourself” and really hoped that they would? I think that’s what God is saying to all of us, at least that’s what I’m hearing at our LOL group. Think of Jesus crying out to Jerusalem, “How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing!” And I am apparently part of the “unwilling.” Yes, I am at least somewhat inwardly opposed to believing that God desires above all to just let him (through some of our own choices) take care of us. I’m reminded of how the NT teaches husbands to love their wives as they do their own body, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” Really? No one ever hated his own body, Paul? Paul obviously didn’t live in the modern West or grow up in the churches I grew up in. But seriously, did you catch that? The logic is obvious: Paul assumes and affirms that we would “love” our own bodies; that we’d feed and care for them, and not disdainfully on the one hand or indulgently on the other, but as Christ does the Church. If your spirit just says, “Of course; duh, T!” then count yourself blessed. Cuz I’ve not been trained to think that Paul would affirm folks “loving” themselves, certainly not their bodies–we’re supposed to hate/tolerate our bodies in Christianity, right? Apparently not. But you know, I freely admit that I need progress in love in the way of Christ, and it turns out the first place God has highlighted has been accepting his love for me in greater measure, and seeing more clearly how he does “love.”
God busted me as I was contemplating a typical food choice the other day: “If I loved myself the way God loves me, I wouldn’t just eat whatever I want, I’d take care of myself through eating; because that’s what God wants to do–take better care of me.”
What’s really going on here is the depth and scope of my belief, or disbelief, in the grace of God toward me. Again, I’ve been programmed to hear “grace” as “forgiving my sins” but God’s grace is all the undeserved kindness that God wants to show me, all the ways he wants to take care of me, merit notwithstanding. It’s too easy for me when I hear that we are to pick up our cross and follow Christ to even unconsciously say, “Yes, yes, because I deserve some hardship for my failings; and God wants to give me some.” But that’s not the cross that Jesus picked up, nor the one he asks us to bear.
God wants to care for us, and the whole world. He’d like to pull us into that vocation, even as it concerns our own selves. Yes, God wants me to “love myself” but not the way the world loves, so that I just give myself whatever I want, but to “care for and feed myself,” to seek to do good to myself and even my body, because that’s God’s desire for me.