He pulls the cinnamon raisin bagel from the toaster and does not spread butter or cream cheese. Just plain and warm. He stuffs his mouth and I watch his face contort as he chews, lips never meeting. Years ago I would have told him to close his mouth when eating, but the years have softened me some. Plus, he’s our youngest of three. I’m just plain worn.
I look at him, now half way through his fifteenth year. He’s ready to drive in a few weeks when that temporary license comes. He shoots handguns and shotguns and grunts his hellos. He tries not to smile because it’s not cool, but he can’t help himself.
He loves God. He loves life. He loves people.
I look at him with gooey feelings inside and gush . . .
“I love you, Nick!”
“I love myself too.”
I nearly spew my mouthful of coffee all over my white terry cloth robe. I laugh loud, forgetting how sound carries in our log home and others are still sleeping.
“You love yourself?”
“Yep.” He keeps chewing.
He shrugs his shoulders. “Do I need to have a reason?”
I laugh again.
“I guess not, but I’m curious.”
“I don’t know. I just love myself. Just because.” Half a bagel down. Half to go.
Ok then. He loves himself. Just because. Enough said.
When I was his age, I didn’t feel as he does. I went looking for love and found it. I found the love of friends and, years later, the love of a man. But no external love helped me love myself. I thought loving self was selfish. I was put on this earth to serve others, to love others—not to love myself. So I focused on others and tried to forget about myself, subconsciously following the family script handed to me at an early age. Problem is, my thinking came from my family script, not God’s script. Back then, I had interpreted Scripture mandates to “consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) to mean I was a worm not worthy of care or consideration—a great recipe for developing a warped sense of self and becoming a target for abuse. I experienced both.
But God’s Script doesn’t say to hate oneself and let oneself be abused. Neither does God’s Script condone selfishness of any sort.
Jesus says, “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.” Matthew 22:37-40 (emphasis mine)
How easy it is to live in the extremes of self, forgetting God altogether. But God commands a healthy love of self—prioritized and balanced. Without loving God with all our hearts and souls and minds, we veer in one direction or the other on the narcissistic/neurotic continuum. Neither is healthy. Both are self-obsessed, putting self before God which is never scriptural and always carries hefty consequences spiritually, emotionally, relationally, physically. Even societally, globally.
Self-obsession, either narcissism or neuroticism, has black holes on both sides, pulling self into a crushing abyss of darkness where nothing escapes and no light lives.
Narcissism. Neuroticism. They both beckon. “Come to me and let me crush you with Yourself!”
If we were just so un-Self-conscious that we could love ourselves the way God says to love ourselves. Not planting ourselves on either extreme of the narcissistic or neurotic, we would indeed be free and at peace. We would lose our Self-consciousness, dying to it as God commands, and in the process find what we really wanted in the first place.
There is no freedom like the freedom from self-obsession, being firmly planted in the heart of God.
Christ alone enables us to get off the see-saw ends and plant ourselves smack dab in the middle with God who guards our hearts and souls from a living hell. In fact, staying under the guard of God keeps us in His perfect peace where we are free to absorb and give His love as He intends.
How do we do this?
We all worship, whether we know it or not. Worship is whatever consumes our focus most. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This constitutes true and healthy worship. If we do this—if we worship true—we WILL love others AS ourselves. It will just happen.
The three-legged stool of love—for God, for self, for others—is actually not a stool. It’s a cross. Try to live without a firmly planted vertical beam and the horizontal beam has nothing to hold onto. If God is first, firmly planted in the dirt of our lives, self and other are held in proper position. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. The cross. Vertical planted first, horizontal placed second. Peace.
He loves me. He loves you. And why does God love any of us so?
Like Nick said—“Just because.”
God loves us just because. Just because I’m me and you’re you. He delights to delight in His creation, the work of His hands, the ones He looked upon after His finishing touch and called “good”—the way He made us, before we marred His masterpiece. Covered in Christ—in His blood shed for our wounds—our flaws—God sees us, loves us, and offers His peace.
God loves to love. That’s what He does. And He found the way to keep on loving us even when we marred ourselves. He covered us with Christ.
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1-2
I marvel at the diversity of God’s creation. He created just because it delighted Him to do so and love always extends itself.
As I walk our acreage looking all around, I am in awe of Him. Stunning are the molten golds, and crimsons, and greens all mixed together in the woods! How miraculous the horse’s eye! Periwinkle sky slips through wispy white, outlining a heart—a reminder of God sending Love to heal all—our Jesus.
Today, I write a love note to myself:
Stay centered. In Christ alone. Move from wherever you are on the see-saw of self-absorption and learn what it means to be free—abundantly, wildly, absolutely . . . FREE! Are you listening, Self? Now go do, by God’s grace.
How do I sign a love note to myself?
With God’s signature of love—the blood of Christ. And He signs every single one of His masterpieces He calls His own. He signs and seals us with Himself.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Him above the heavenly host! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen!
Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Deuteronomy 6:13