How Much Do You Love Yourself?

When asked the question, “How much do you love yourself?” What is your answer? Well, I love myself enough to make sure I have food to eat, clothes to wear and a warm place to sleep. I also love myself enough to want to have close relationships with my children and family, to bring happiness to others and to enjoy intimate friendships with other people. I also love myself enough to want to hear encouraging words, compliments and uplifting messages. I love myself enough to want to avoid painful situations, to run away from abusive relationships and to have people help me and forgive me when I fail. I love myself enough to want to survive.

I have been struggling with some deep issues in recent days involving an unforgiving heart, deep disappointment and anger. I know in my head I need to let go and trust God to work situations out but I have this roiling, churning uneasiness in my spirit. In my devotions this morning, I was reading Matthew 22. Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders who were trying to attack his teaching. One Pharisee asked him a ridiculous, simple question any Jew would have known. “According to the Law of God, what is the greatest commandment?” Instead of ignoring the trite attack, Jesus answered promptly, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” But, he didn’t stop there. He looked at the smug, self-righteous leaders and replied, “And the second greatest commandment, equal to the first, is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

You see, I have been stuck on the first part. I love God on all levels and I strive to know him more personally each day. I don’t consciously do it but I can be like the religious leaders on my high horse sitting high and mighty above the “dregs of society”. I can be judgmental, and have been, and can consider my life better than some people. I pat myself on the back and say I’m not in the mud with the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the child abusers, the failures. Truth is, though, even if I keep the first commandment but don’t keep the second, to love my neighbor as myself, I’m no better than any of them.

Jesus was constantly criticized for fraternizing with prostitutes and tax collectors. He faced down his critics by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Those were his neighbors and he was loving them as much as he loved himself. He met not only their physical needs but their emotional and spiritual needs as well. His love for God didn’t end with himself; it extended to the world around him to people entrapped by pain, hopelessness, suffering, addictions, and guilt.

I asked for God’s forgiveness for my unloving attitude, which was eating away at me, and I also asked for his help in seeing people with his eyes. In my own power, it is difficult to see the small grain of hope buried in the desperate, seeking heart of another human being but if I strive to see people as God sees them I can overcome my prejudice and judgment and love my neighbors as I love myself and as God loves me. There have been times in my life when I was no better (on many levels) and yet God’s loving eyes, his forgiveness, changed me.

How would my world change if I asked, when confronted with difficult people, “Do I love this person as much as I love myself?”

Do You Have The Guts?

I had surgery two weeks ago to repair damage done to my intestines from adhesions and strictures. It was the second time my abdomen has been opened up, in a nice long line, from my belly button to my pubic bone. During the surgery, the doctor pulls all of your intestines out and examines them inch by inch to make sure they get all the bad part taken care of. I had about a foot of small intestine removed because it was so damaged. It wasn’t a procedure I wanted to go through but it was necessary if I was to have any quality of life. I was malnourished and had lost a great deal of weight because the damage was preventing my body was using the vitamins and minerals I was taking in.

God never promised we would have a life free from pain and trouble. As a matter of fact, our lives are a little like my surgery. Over time, if we don’t take care, we build up scar tissue and strictures, from living defeated lives, which prevent us from having a closer relationship with God. We resent the trials and pain and blame God for our misfortunes. The nourishment we might receive from him passes through us because we are too damaged to use it. Our lives are cluttered with unnecessary barriers that need to be cleaned out so we can live a healthy, spiritual life.

The process is painful and takes time to heal but if you take one day at a time you will find yourself healthy and able to use the nourishment you receive. The question is: do you have the guts? Do you have the guts to examine your life and see where you need to clean out scar tissue and damage? Do you have the guts to allow God to clean up the areas of your life which need changing? Do you have the guts to face the process, knowing it will be painful, but worth it in the end?

Don’t wait until the strictures and scars in your life obstruct God’s work. Ask God to show you the areas in your life that need changing and fix them now before you need spiritual surgery to correct the problem.