Lisa Byrne is a holistic health counselor and Christian mom. When a dear friend read her article, "Who Do You Feel You Are", she sent it to me immediately because she knew I'd love it. And I do. The entire piece is wonderfully refreshing, but there is something specific I want to share that women struggling with the bonds of 'performance spirituality' need to understand. Lisa writes,
The bible records that Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was. He replied: ‘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.’ But in my experience, this is more than a command..it is how things truly are. I can only love others as I love myself. I can only extend grace to others as I allow myself to accept grace.
How are you, really?
I see this paragraph as a call to seek truth in the inward parts, like David writes; as a call to see what is real, not just as we really wish they would be. For in our zeal to follow Jesus' command to deny ourselves and take up the cross, the full context of His command to "love your neighbor as yourself" often becomes watered down. Worried we'll go too far, others warn us that self-love is innate, natural to the flesh and something to rise above everyday. Perhaps some need these exhortations, but what about those who struggle with depression and emotional wounds? With bitter self-hatred? Whose arms wear burns and slash marks? Whose heart wears burns and gashes?
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20
What if you were your own neighbor? What if you were your own brother?
I live in the South where Southern hospitality comes a-twinkling in crystal glasses of sweet iced tea. We want you to be comfortable, to eat, to inhale gallons of tea and relax on a porch swing loaded with giant floral pillows. Your visit would not be complete unless you heard "Can I get you anything, honey? Are you hungry? Do you need another pillow?" at least thirty times. While I am not the epitome of the southern gal ~ I 'm not as sunny, for one thing, and I'll offer you powerfully strong coffee, and the porch swing might be a dusty seat on the balcony with plants tickling your ear ~ I do want my friends to feel comfortable, to feel wanted, welcomed, and loved. To leave refreshed, nurtured, rested, inspired, and ready to face another day.
Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What does your mouth speak about yourself? Do you attend to your needs? The expression "actions speak louder than words" applies, too. If you treated your friend the way you treat yourself, how do you think she would she respond? If you spoke to your friend the way you speak to yourself, how would she feel? Try to reflect on this over the next few days. It's important to be aware of how you view yourself.
This isn't a call to selfishness; rather, a plea for balance. Look again at the command: love your neighbor as yourself. What a lovely tension! Yet there was a time in my life that if I truly loved my neighbor as myself, that would mean I'd punch my neighbor in the leg. That I'd tell her she was fat and ugly and worthless and should've never been born. That she was a mistake and a burden to everyone she loved. I would've tried to rip the hair off her head and scream at her til I was hoarse and beg God to kill her. I would've planned her murder.
If you were to truly love your neighbor as yourself, what would this look like to her? Would you try to poison her? Would you attack her with razors? Would you starve her? Withhold care and nourishment? Would you make her work and work and work without rest? Would you force her to eat until she's sick? Would you keep her from health? Would you hate her, tear her down and tell her it's for her own good, so she can learn humility?
Lisa Byrne writes truth she learned from her own experience:
Please pray that God will show you what this means for you, and how this looks for your life. Just as He is gracious, let us be gracious to others, even when the others are ourselves.
I can only nurture others as I nurture myself.
Reflections: How do you treat yourself? How does your own heart see you, and your mouth speak of you? What would it mean for you to learn to love your neighbor as you love yourself? What holds you back?
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