And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I remember in Sunday School learning a song about JOY. It’s theme stuck with me for years and caused a lot of havoc in my life.
Jesus and others and you
What a wonderful way to spell joy
Jesus and others and you
in the life of each girl and each boy
“J” is for Jesus for He has first place,
“O” is for others you meet face to face,
“Y” is for you, in whatever you do,
Put your self third and spell JOY.
I continually put myself third in everything. Seeking first to please God and then to please others. My needs, feelings and wants weren’t part of the equation. As long as everyone else was fine, I should be fine too right? Even dare I say Joyful?
Well I wasn’t joyful. I was resentful. I was tired and frustrated. I had completely lost myself in the role of mother, wife, friend and volunteer. I said Yes to everything and anyone who needed help. Isn’t that our calling to be God’s vessel for good work in the world. Didn’t Jesus give us His very life for us? How can I be complaining about having no time for myself?
However if we look more closely at the truth of Love, love has to originate from God and our relationship with Him and then fill us and then from that overflowing we can serve others. We are not serving ourselves last.
The great commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself,” could also say, “Love yourself and then love your neighbor.” Or better yet, “Love yourself as well as you love your neighbor.” Think about it. How well do you treat others? I am assuming if you’re reading this, that you would go to any lengths to help others. That you extend forgiveness and love to others generously. That you enjoy giving gifts and surprising your loved ones to make them feel special. Am I right?
Do you do that for yourself? Do you ask for help when you need it and do you feel comfortable with receiving help? Are you easy on yourself and extend grace for faults and forgiveness easily? Or do you expect perfection in all that you say and do and when you don’t meet your standard beat yourself up for days?
Just yesterday I was texting with a dear friend and having a good laugh over a recent ‘girlish’ discovery. At the same time I was texting with my friend and co-author of Focus on You: Your Needs Matter Too, Dr. Michael Woulas, sharing yesterday’s blog for him to read. Well, I accidentally shared the wrong link with him and, much to my embarassment, I could not delete it! I could have berated myself and ruminated on it, but instead I chose to laugh it off. Everyone makes mistakes. And hopefully he got a good laugh out of it too.
You see, today I choose to treat myself with kindness. It is my highest priority to maintain my connection with God and love myself. Then from that overflowing I can genuinely, without strings attached, serve others. Why? Because I am not looking for them to return the love. It’s not a this for that situation. It’s an “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” situation.
Jesus is the ultimate example of this pattern. He spent much time alone with the Father. He often went up to the mountains to pray and connect and receive. Then He chose His path. He knew when and who to engage with and when and who He needed to set boundaries with. He didn’t allow people to walk all over him. He didn’t pander to their pushing but looked at their hearts.
He was lovingly honed into His mission and did not divert from it.
Today make it your mission to treat yourself as well as you would treat your neighbor. Love yourself to the degree you love those around you. Derive your worth not from loving the external, physical nature of you, your hair, your body, your clothes, but draw your worth from WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE. A child of God. Loved. Perfect in His eyes. Treasured. Worthy. Because the price has already been paid for you. Act like it. Believe it. Live from the abundance of Love that has been bestowed upon you.
Day 5 Lenten Love Prayer:
Loving myself as much as I love others. Wow can it be that I had it all wrong? Thank you for showing me ways in which I have misunderstood my position as a treasured and loved Child of God. Give me the confidence to take better care of myself so I can be a better example of your love in the world. Free me from resentment, frustration, guilt, depression and anger. Let me see those feelings as red flags that I have done too much for others and not enough for myself. Today I pray that You would show me how to let go of fear in loving myself as You love me. Help me to see where I need to set healthier boundaries with those who are draining my time and energy. Help me to look to You first for love. Even today I will heighten my awareness of how much You love me. Thank you Jesus for modeling the way to connect with the Father, fill myself and then serve others. I will follow you.
Day 5 Scripture:
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” — Mark 12:30-31