... as yourself
In the book of Mark chapter 12 verse 28, Jesus is asked which of all the commandments are the most important. He responds by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But the answer doesn’t end there. In verse 31 he says that the second is to “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is NO commandment greater than these.”
The entire reply was steeped and rooted in one thing... LOVE. God IS love and he sees this commandment as the base for the most important command of them all. With that in mind, let’s consider an often glossed over part of this command. Notice the last two words of verse 31… AS YOURSELF. If you loved your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your actual neighbors in the exact same manner as you love and treat yourself, how would that really look? Now, on one hand, I believe that a lot of us tend to think of ourselves first, whether we admit it or not. So, we want to take this command as a way to step away from ourselves, our self centered tendencies, and put others first. But there is another aspect to those last two words, I believe.
Insert deep breath… this is me being VERY honest and extremely vulnerable, but I believe deep down inside, many of us are in this same boat, so I am going to put this out there…
I don’t know about you, but I treat other people a lot better than I tend to treat myself. With myself, I am a perfectionist, critical, strict and often unforgiving. I have been able to find a balance with intentionally giving my thoughts to God and practicing grace, forgiveness, gratitude and kindness but truth be told, I would never say to anyone the things I say to myself. If I make a mistake, I often mutter “idiot” or if I don’t meet my goals or perform with perfection, I silently reprimand myself with “Can’t I do anything right? What’s my problem? I’ll never measure up!” With practice I don’t think this way as often and have found a way to cut that thinking short and move forward, but my initial reaction to myself at times can still be pretty ugly. When I wake up and look in the mirror, face fresh without makeup and hair done, some mornings I pick myself apart and can’t wait to “make up” the face I am happy with and ok with others to see. I would venture to say, inner dialogue can be pretty gross on many levels with most of us at times.
This is where we need to remind ourselves that Jesus has tied how we treat others directly into the importance of self care. In this day and age we are saturated with advertisements, social media and “the Joneses” that tell us what we have to look like or accomplish for an acceptable level of “worth.” Do you think that if you were facing Jesus right now, he would have a scale beside him asking you to weigh in before he will speak to you? Would there be a mirror to see if you are good looking or fashionable enough to be by his side? Or better yet, would he require a balance inquiry at the nearest ATM to see if you have enough money to be in his presence? Would he be standing there with his hands out asking you to produce a college degree because he only will speak with educated individuals? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Although there are expectations of participating in life in a quality manner, each of our paths will be unique and all God asks for is effort. Jesus wants us to take care of our bodies for health reasons so we can have a good quality of life. The scriptures specifically say that each person is to pull their own load and not be lazy, so we work, or go to school to prepare for work, or run our homes and care for our families or maybe have finally earned the privilege of retirement. But there is not a level of “measuring” to Jesus. He is looking at our heart. Yours and mine. He sees and measures our beauty with how we love God, others and ourselves.
Friend, let today serve as a reminder that you ARE beautiful in the eyes of Jesus. You ARE rich when you have love in your heart and soul. He doesn’t ask us to “earn” his love but we can certainly live to be an extension of the love of Jesus in every single thing we do, with every single person we meet. And my friend… that includes yourself! Be soft, be gentle and dare to see and practice love to yourself. When you love yourself properly, you will make an amazing neighbor to all!!
Prayer Prompt: Sovereign Lord, thank you! Thank you for reminding me today that you love me exactly as I am. Jesus, today I vow to be an extension of your love to everyone I encounter, starting with myself. I am grateful for my __________. I am excited that you blessed me with ___________. I love ___________ about myself. I will continue to practice being gentle and loving with myself every single day and simply ask for you to nudge me with reminders of what you love about me personally. Father God, thank you for creating me to be unique. Thank you for my gift of _____________. Please let me never waste my gifts. Give me assurance and confidence that you do not make mistakes and if I just continue to try you will meet me and sustain me. Show me where I can display neighborly love today. I will watch for it and as always, I will watch for you to move in my life. Thank you in advance for loving me more than I can even fathom. I am humbled in your presence and thankful for your continued grace. Abba, I praise you, I surrender to you and submit to your will in my life. I remain excited to see what you are up to! In Jesus name.... AMEN!