Saturday, December 28, 2013

Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself

I don't remember who I need to credit with my learning the actual meaning of the Golden Rule, besides Jesus. It sort of came to me slowly, like a warm light in the middle of a dark wood.

Throughout my teenage years, I had this notecard with turquoise block letters taped to my mirror that says: JOY. It was an acronym that was to remind me: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

 I tried to live by this rule. I tried to pray, read the Bible, and put Jesus absolutely FIRST (I failed a lot). I tried to put others second, always. This I was pretty good at. Because it was easy for me to put myself LAST. And it felt so darned Christian of me.

 I remember intentionally taking the smallest piece for myself. Intentionally choosing clothing at the store with a little damage (yeah, I did that - because I was not worthy to have the good clothing, I should leave those for other people - Yourself LAST), allowing people to cut in front of me in line without saying anything, allowing people to walk all over me, doing whatever everyone else wanted, going with the flow... The list goes on. Because it's easy to cave. And easy to berate yourself. And because you see all of your flaws so well, it is extremely easy to remind yourself of all the reasons you aren't worthy to be breathing, let alone have something good in your life.

 I felt that these actions were good and right and Holy. That somehow being this way made me a GOOD person. I was loving my neighbor. I was treating others the way I would like to be treated. And when I screwed up royally in many other ways, this was the thing I could come back to - at least I am always LAST.

 I practiced this diligently all the way through college.

 I sank into a deep depression and ended up in counseling. I never told my psychiatrist about my promise to Jesus and to myself. She never asked. We mostly talked about boys and my longing to throw myself off of a bridge late at night - not necessarily so I would be dead, but so that I could see what would really happen when my body hit the water.

 And so things continued like that. Until I started to make a turn. I read the scriptures again; especially the Jesus scriptures. And I came to the Golden Rule:

 Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV): 

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” 

I remember thinking that it didn't sound quite right.  I remembered: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  And this does, in fact, appear in the scriptures and is, in fact, credited as the Golden Rule, but there is this other version that talks about loving your neighbor as yourself, and it was intriguing, because loving my neighbor as myself seemed an awful lot like I was missing the boat.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  

What did that mean?

What if I wasn't loving myself at all?

What if I treated myself like absolute and total undeserving crap?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your neighbor like you love yourself.

And treat other people the way you want to be treated.

These things go together.

If I want to love my neighbor, Jesus also wants me to love me.

He loves me too.

I am valuable just like my neighbor.

I need to be able to love myself so that I can love my neighbor better.  And in order to do that I need to accept that Jesus thinks I'm a precious creation.

So in this pondering, I realized that Jesus loves me.  Just like I am.  No strings attached.

And that gives me value.  That makes me precious.  In the book Captivating by John and Stasi Elderedge we can come to understand that God sees as as princesses of his realm.  He is King, after all.  And the Bible tells us that we are his children.

So...  royalty.

Really the highest freaking royalty that there is.

And sometimes, being the princess and all, I deserve the nice piece of toast or the big pancake or the cookie with the most chocolate chips.  Unless my kid really wants that cookie - because taking it would make me a royal prick.  But at a party with my friends and there's a big plate of cookies there and it's just me and the cookies and the table?  Yeah, it's okay for me to take that one with all those chips in it.

And not just that.

I need to take care of myself.

When I'm sick I need to rest and make myself soup and tea with honey and get myself blankets.  Because if my neighbor is sick I need to be able to encourage them to rest and bring them a tureen of soup and a mug of hot tea with honey.

It's a delicate balance, sure.  Sometimes treating others the way I want to be treated is sacrificial, especially in the moment.  But it's okay to recover from that.  To put up my feet and close my eyes and breathe life in for a few moments in silence.  It's okay to work on striking a balance between cooking awesome meals for other people's parties and having great dinner for my own family.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted on facebook that if I love my neighbor as myself and I'm really self-critical, then that must mean I should treat other people in that same way.

And that post brought all of the above to mind.

Because that's not what it means.

Jesus calls us to love Him, and through that love exchange we can learn our own high value.  And once we understand our own value and are able to sometimes take the chocolatey-est cookie and give ourselves a sick day and groom ourselves and ask for a hug.  And once we understand we are valuable it allows us to see the high value in every. other. person. on the planet.  And when we see the value in the people all around us we are more apt to give the homeless person with the sign that says "Looking for a hot meal" our whole Panera Gift Card.  Because it was freely given to me, and I can freely give it away.  And when we know our neighbor has had a death in the family, or brought home a new baby, we can bring over a big container of pasta with extra sauce and cheese (unless they're vegan... then hold the cheese) and be happy to do it!  Because it's something I know would be helpful to me.  It's something I would love.  And I have value.  And they have value.  And you have value too

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