Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Love Yourself or Deny Yourself?

In One Month to Live by Chris and Kerry Shook, Day 5 talks about loving yourself, based on Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbor as yourself." They talk about taking time for yourself, taking care of yourself emotionally, relationally and physically. That's where they get personal. I know I should be exercising, I get it.
Anyway, we were talking in my class Sunday morning about how hard it is for women to take time for themselves. We either don't even try to make time, or if we do, we feel guilty about it. And then Jason mentioned how it seems contradictory to read that and a few chapters earlier, Jesus talks about denying ourselves. Matthew 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" I didn't think much about it at the time. But today, when I was trying to have a few moments to myself with my Bible, I just couldn't get into Ephesians(probably because there were 3 screaming boys and a bouncing basketball going on around me). So I read a few chapters in Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lysa Terkeurst. She's good, but she's not Paul. And in chapter 14, she talked about the exact same thing, almost like she had been in our class. So I had to camp out on those passages for a little bit.
Lysa says the point of those two verses is not to focus on ourselves at all, but to "make peace with who we are so that feelings of insecurity don't become a distraction to living our faith out loud." (pg 166). I agree with that sentiment, but I'm not sure that's what the scripture is talking about. My Life Application Bible said this about Matt. 16:25. "If we protect ourselves from pain, we begin to die spiritually and emotionally. Our lives turn inward, and we lose our intended purpose. When we give our lives in service to Christ, however, we discover the real purpose of living." (my italics)
And then I pulled out my Message Bible. I know it is not a real translation, but sometimes it helps me to get some clarity. Matt. 16:24-26 says, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."
When I put all that together, it made more sense. We do need to love others as we love ourselves, which does tell us that we need to love ourselves. But I think that means that we need to take care of ourselves in such a way that when God calls us to help others, which should be daily, we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready to serve. It means finding out who we are but not being inwardly focused. We need to be self-sacrificing when it comes to obedience to Christ, but also be willing to ask for help so that we are not burned out and worn out when its time to really do the jobs God has called us to. I think as a mom sometimes, I don't ask for help, and I continually work at things that may not be all that important in the eternal aspect of life (clean house, laundry, etc.) And then when opportunities arise to serve people, even playing with my children, I am too busy or too tired. I need to take care of myself, and then I will be ready to take care of others with God's strength in me.
When I was in Seminary, one of my favorite professors, Dr. Karen Bullock in Church History, said something I will never forget. She said sometimes she goes to get ice cream, and will not get her favorite flavor as an exercise in denying self. I tried that once. It actually was painful to not get what I really wanted. I still got ice cream so who am I kidding. It wasn't that bad. But it is a reminder sometimes that the little things in life we stress over and think are important to us, in the grand scheme of God's plan are very unimportant. He has great plans for us, bigger than we could ever imagine. And how much of His plan for me am I missing out on because I'm either stressed, tired, lazy or selfish? Loving myself and denying myself. Its a fine line! But an important one to consider. Thoughts?

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