Love Includes You
I spent the day with my middle daughter. The one who’s been climbing her whole life to find her worth.
At the tender age of 5 her arms wrapped around my middle sitting in the pew while the teacher up front taught us we were sinners. We learned that God was a mountain and we were climbers. Our fingers and toes clinging for dear life. We were told to love our neighbor but never knew God is love. Helpless, we loved the only way we knew how; by leaving the miracle of our own making in the dust.
It’s not that our sin is a little thing. It’s a bloody price to pay. It’s inevitable death, sorrow and pain. A curse on the earth. Thorns and thistles and daily sweat on our brow. But sin is only where we begin. It’s not the thread from beginning to end. The thread is the God who wept and prayed at our grave. Our Punishment preaching: Repent, the kingdom of heaven is today.
I will only love you as much as I love myself.
We stopped for dinner. Loving ourselves was the main dish.
It was filling.
I raised three girls in fear of my own insecurities. My body image issues went unattended. It took a toll on their delicate years.
Ann Voscamp writes in The Broken Way: “When one person hurts in a family, everyone aches.”
Across kale salad and crispy fries, she tried to soften the blow. I wanted to say, It’s OK. But I didn’t.
Later, alone with my thoughts, I wondered why my faults didn’t cause me to harden my heart or wallow in guilt like it had in the past. And the words let loose like falling leaves: I live in forgiveness.
I’ll admit, loving myself sounded like the last thing I should do, until I realized — it’s near the top of God’s list! Here’s why: I will only love you as much as I love myself.
God showed me this, friend: If we’re not living in forgiveness, we’re not rooted and grounded in love — we’re slaving in self-defense. Which is precisely why loving God is first on the list — because He’s the only way we love at all. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Opening our own forgiven-ness breaks the cycle of loveless living.
Is your brand of love covering sin or stirring up strife? Are the hearts of your people healing little by little or fighting the same battles? I’m asking myself these questions because I’m raring to know the difference between what I’ve known love to be and what love really is. Sara Groves writes poignantly in her song, Love: “Not as we know it, but as it can be.”
My brand of love has failed others — and love never fails!
Love includes you.
Are you patient and kind to yourself? Me neither. Are you arrogant or rude to you? Me too. Are you leaning on yourself, when you could be trusting God? This breed of love has no living power. It’s profiting no one. Not by a long shot. We’re beating a dumb drum!
What does it look like to love myself and not live self-indulgent? Because that’s the rub, right? If you care for yourself, you must not give a hoot about anyone else.
Nowhere in scripture does God say you are to hate anything about yourself other than your sin—only what draws you away from Him! Not your hair or your skin, not your nose or your hips, your talents and knowhow, your tastes and preferences—even your need for rest and solitude are measured by Him.
Jesus died for every evil attachment we hide in our heart. Every falsity we believe about God and ourselves. The works of the flesh as described in Galatians 5:20 “hatred, contention, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions and the like”—all point to the adulation, guilt, and hardness of heart I was rid of at the table with my daughter.
This came like a defibrillator: Every impulse to hate what God loves is for the burn pile—that includes you.
Love includes you.
Leaning how love
takes precious time.
Can I say something? The love of God is so far removed from anything we’ve ever reached—it’s like trying to hug a sequoia tree!
My daughter and I are taking our time, because learning how love really works takes precious time.
Here are fresh twists on the art of love:
• Stop rushing yourself. Almost nothing we do is a 911. And yet we hurry in the shower, getting dressed, reading scripture, making lists, out the door, through lunch, getting dinner cleaned up, and the dog walked. And for what? To get up and rush all over again? Stop. Breathe. Slowing down and soaking up this rich moment is loving yourself. And when your pulse slows, patience spills out.
• No more insulting yourself. The words you speak to yourself are the judgements you project on everyone else. Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sending sweetness and health down into your bones.
• Be kind to yourself. Because every form of unkindness is cruelty.
• Forgive yourself. Love is wholly living in a loving Fathers’ forgiveness—because we’re all a world away from perfection.
• Discover and embrace who God has made you to be. When we celebrate who we are, we stop envying other people.
Only when we change our tone toward ourselves will we speak love toward anyone else.
Repeat after me: It’s OK to forsake every grudge and any guilt. I can be kind to myself. It’s OK. I live in forgiveness.