So, I was reading my Bible one day and a particular piece of a verse stuck out to me. I mean, it really hit me.
Let me show you what I found.
Did you catch it? Don't see what I mean? Look a little closer...
What about now? Still no?? Let me help you out.
Now that's all blurry and out of focus, do you see it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, usually when I hear this verse, it's from the angle of thinking of others before you think of yourself and putting others' needs before your own. And Lord knows we need that message, especially in these times.
But I noticed something. Love your neighbor. Like you love yourself. Love your SELF.
Wait, was Jesus saying we should love ourselves? That can't be right! What about John 13:34? "That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
Or Philippians 2:3 and 4. That's a good one! "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, let EACH ESTEEM OTHER BETTER THAN THEMSELVES. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
How could I possibly be implying that Jesus is telling us to love ourselves?
Because it says so. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Why did this grab me? Because I've always had trouble loving myself. I've always compared myself to others and found myself lacking. This one has the perfect hair. That one has a sunny disposition. The other one is flat-out beautiful. And still another is quick to learn.
I always fell short. I had trouble loving myself, or even liking myself.
But this verse made me stop and think. The Lord WANTS me to like myself, to even love myself. He made me on purpose. He wanted me here. So, He must have loved me. And if I'm worth His love, isn't that enough?
Here's another thought. If Jesus wants me to love my neighbors like I love myself, how am I really going to know how to love my neighbors if I don't even know how to love myself? (Make sense?)
We all have shortcomings. We all have things we don't like about ourselves. But let's go back to John 13:34. "...as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Jesus loves us the way we are. And He wants us to love others the way He loves us. We love, because we're loved. (Love your neighbor as yourself.)
But what about verses like that one in Philippians? My uneducated answer is this: Be humble, of course. Put others first, yes. Think of others, sure. But there's nothing in there that tells us to dislike ourselves.
I don't claim to be a Bible scholar and I'm sure some people smarter than me could explain how I'm taking these verses out of context. Maybe I am, a bit. But it still felt like an eye opener to me. He wants me to love myself so that I can love others. And He wants me to love others the way He loves me.
That's a lot of love.
Maybe you have trouble liking yourself, as well. If so, I hope you can see this verse a little differently, like I did. I hope you can learn to love yourself the way Jesus loves you.
May we all experience His love for ourselves and our neighbors.
In His grip!
Death of a sports legend.
Celebrity sex scandals.
Record stock market fall.
2020 Olympics postponed.
Unemployment rates skyrocket.
Riots in the street.
Looting, vandalism, murder.
And that's just America.
And that's just the first six months.
The joke's been running on Facebook that we're ready for our mommas to follow through on their threats to slap us into next year. 2020 has been too much.
Too much unrest. Too much fear. Too much division. Too much hatefulness.
A year ago, I was writing a post about how rough a year 2019 had been so far. Little did I know what 2020 would hold, not only for our family (financial woes, relationship struggles, health concerns), but for our country and the world!
I'm ready to go back to 2019. I would say let's fast forward to 2021, but do we really want to risk a new year? Look what happened to the last one!
In all seriousness, times are hard. Our nation is broken. So much fighting and anger and blame. We've lost our ability to disagree and respect one another's differences. These days, if someone says something we don't like, we blow it up on social media until they've lost their job, received death threats, and have their reputation smeared across the country.
Really? Are we that childish that we can't just "agree to disagree" and walk away? Are we really so sensitive that we can't just let others' negative words and actions fall by the wayside? Do we really need the support of a million busy-body strangers on Facebook to avenge us from someone who was rude or mean?
In March, when the pandemic was starting to sweep across the nation and states were starting to close, I sensed a shift in the community. Even in our nation. We were all in this together. We were literally ALL experiencing the same troubles. Grounded at home, trying to get the basic necessities, and keeping our families and communities safe.
For a while, if not for the thousands falling ill and dying, it seemed something good could come out of something scary. This pandemic was drawing us together.
And then, it was tearing us apart. Everyone stood on this side of the line or that one. And there was no meeting in the middle. Insults were hurled. We laughed at others' fears or scorned their beliefs. We tore down our leaders.
It's sad. Through the last several months, this could have been a time of growth, a time of unity. And our country missed it. (To be fair, I know there were communities and neighborhoods who did experience unity during this time, so I don't want to pretend it NEVER happened!)
But through it all, I am SO glad to know that God holds us safely in His grip. These last few months, despite the growing unrest and hysteria, I had peace. Oh, I won't try to convince you that I never got concerned or nervous. But in the very deepest part of me, I rested in the assurance that none of this scared Him. None of it took God by surprise. He can handle it all. And He can see me through it.
Even when finances are a bit uncertain. Even when my Facebook friends have gotten spiteful. Even when the country's leaders are more interested in their own agenda than my well-being. Even when morals and ethics are being thrown out the window, while thieves and killers are being hailed as heroes.
God's got this. He's got me. And He's got you.
Do you have Him? Do you rest each night knowing that if you got COVID-19, you would be safe in His arms? Do you sit in your homes, petrified of the violence outside your window? Do you dread the coming election, hinging our country's survival (and yours) on the government leaders?
A local pastor likes to repeat in church, "Don't look to the left or to the right. Don't look down and DON'T look to government. But look up, for your redemption draweth nigh."
Followed by a hearty "Give JESUS a hand clap of praise!"
But it's true. I can rest at night, because I know I'm not relying on my state and national leaders to get everything night. I rise in the morning, because Jesus has His hand on me. I can shut out the noise and roar of the world, because my hope is in Jesus.
And if it happens that I do end up with a virus or job loss or property damage or terrorized by a murder hornet (yeah, there's that, too!), then I will still rest in His goodness and His care. Is it easy? Not always. Is it for the best? ALWAYS.
If you're living in fear, please, put your trust in Jesus. Let Him fill you so you have no room in your heart for fear. Fill your mind with His word.
As a wonderfully dear friend of mine used to say, "It'll be all right!"
And it will be. Because we are all safe....
In His Grip!