“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self” – part 4
If all of a sudden three days opened up for you next week and you had unlimited resources at your fingertips to pamper yourself, guilt-free, how would you use your time? I know that for one of my friends he’d spend the time on the golf course. Another friend would sit on the beach and read, walk, and rest. A third friend would head to the mountains to hike, eat out, and drink good beer. What about you?
Unfortunately, for me, I would have a hard time deciding what to do. I would feel more like “my wife deserves this more than I do” or “with the hunger in the world today, it would be better for me to donate the resources to a relief and development agency.” Frankly, it’s hard for me to take care of me. I’ve spent so much time coming to the conviction that I don’t deserve such treatment (theologically, practically, emotionally) that it’s hard to treat myself with any kind of extravagence and generosity, even for small purposes or in a limited timeframe.
What does it mean to love our neighbors “as ourselves”? Is the Golden Rule…do unto others as you would have them do unto you…relevant for me? That is, the part that’s about loving ourselves and being done unto in a golden fashion?
Well, let me introduce you to a friend called grace…this friend is yours, and it’s based in our friendship with Jesus, the author of grace. To love another without first loving oneself is to love in a vacuum, and potentially in vain. Jesus shows us the way. He took great care of others, but also made sure he had his time for refreshment and renewal, beginning with his times apart from the crowds and his disciples in quiet places of rest and prayer with the Father. He also enjoyed times with his friends, loving and giving to them over and over again. I love seeing that priority in Jesus.
Spiritual friends love Jesus, love others, and yes, love themselves. In a healthy way, of course. For to love oneself is to know oneself. And in knowing, to love according to our best interest and intention, in spite of our shortcomings and in fact because of our shortcomings. What is your primary love language? Can you practice offering such love to yourself? If it’s primarily words of affirmation, can you speak kindly of yourself? If gift giving, can you make a purchase for yourself? If acts of kindness, can you deed yourself a thoughtful act? If it’s spending meaningful time, can you carve out of your schedule an hour or more simply for you? If it’s physical touch, can you release your tension and relax in gentle, restful ways?
What would it look like for you to be kind to yourself? To cut yourself some much needed slack? To receive life and love with open, outstretched hands? Here are a few simple suggestions:
1. Begin with a healthy pursuit of self-awareness. Who are you and how well do you know yourself? Perhaps take a self-awareness survey like the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs. Acknowledge before the Lord your strengths and your weaknesses. Confess your brokenness and find Jesus fully present to offer his forgiveness and mercy. Lean into your life with grace in your heart and on your lips. Be who God made you to be and let the world know about Jesus through an authentic true-to-self you.
2. As you start each new day, come before Jesus with a hearts desire to receive his tender love, grace and gentleness. Begin with a smile and a wink in the mirror, not in a prideful way but “as if it was Jesus” smiling and winking at you. A healthy self-love begins with the receptivity of love from God our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Transformer. He knows your propensity to sin and he loves you all the more. Receive his love and walk in his grace, mercy, patience, kindness and peace.
3. Practice befriending yourself in life-giving ways. Throw open your arms as a physical reflection of your desire to remain wide open to the redemptive and restorative work of God deep within you each and every day. Stop dwelling on the shame and guilt of your past and be released into love and acceptance, joy and encouragement…beginning with you. Yes you are flawed, but you are loved unconditionally and living in that awareness will set you free from the inside out.
4. Breathe deeply throughout your days. Consciously determine not to let others or circumstances take you to a dark place internally. Learn what it means to have a healthy “care-less” posture…not that you don’t care, because you do, but instead of getting wrapped around the axle each time something is said or done that irritates you, simply hold it looser and practice the spiritual discipline of detachment. Ask God to give you the wisdom, strength and grace to do so…and then do so. Deep breathing exercises help you remember to let it go and not be held hostage and imprisoned by others.
5. Give of yourself freely and generously to all who cross your path. Extend love to others in voice and action, in heart and mind…give to others as you’ve been given to by God. With kindness and generosity, let your life be known more by your friendship than your animosity. Without Jesus at the center of our self-awareness, we will continue to manipulate our way through life. Jesus is our Friend, who invites us into friendship by abiding in him, he urges us toward loving friendship with others in his name – then and only then will we bear fruit that lasts.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself…it’s really that simple…so, how is it with your love for yourself today, dear friend?
Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.