In the day and age where self love is taught in every self help book and fitness class and psychologist’s office, there is a truth that is hard to swallow. Loving yourself won’t fix your problems. Problems are in every life on this planet. In fact, loving God, won’t keep you from running into problems either, but it will keep you from being destroyed by them.
I’ve fought my way through self hatred. I’ve hated my body, my weight, my tendency to talk too much and say stupid things. In my teenage years, I felt that no matter what I ever did, I would never be good enough. I tried everything I could think of to “perfect” myself. I lost weight, I exercised, I tried to shut up within myself and not share as I once did. For a time, I found myself in a dark place. The physical manifestation of my spiritual illness, became Anorexia with characteristics of Bulimia. That was the medical diagnosis, but the spiritual and emotional diagnosis was “lost, hopeless, and ashamed.”
I could tell you a good many reasons why I found myself in this place. Many of those reasons were legitimately terrible circumstances beyond my control, but I know now, that I could have done something differently, and saved myself and my loved ones, a great deal of heartache. In the thick of this mess, I had turned and focused my eyes and efforts on myself. I’d looked away from the precious face of Jesus. I tried to satisfy needs and emotions that only God can satisfy. I tried to numb pain that only God can heal. It was a nearly fatal mistake physically and spiritually, and the shame of where I found myself, almost shackled me there.
I learned something very important in this trial… I couldn’t fix myself with myself. I needed a positive spiritual influence, from a strong personal relationship with God. One day, during a therapy session, my psychologist said something that made very good sense, “Amy, I know your desire is to help other people, but how can you do that if you are not well yourself?” I realized she had a fantastic point. I couldn’t help another drowning soul, unless I myself were not also drowning.
Focusing on myself instead of God, had allowed me to excuse self destructive behaviors as methods of trying to make myself feel better. In that dark place, there was terrible banter within my mind. I was too dirty, too gross for God. I wasn’t ever going to make anything of myself. No one would ever love me exactly as I was. There would always be conditions. Not thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, driven enough, or demure enough to be loved unconditionally. I know some would call these negative thoughts a lack of self confidence, but from where I sit now, this was a jerk devil whispering in my ear. If he could keep me from approaching God because of my sin and unworthiness…mission accomplished. By the time I realized how lost I’d gotten myself, I was a complete mess. God must be disappointed in me. I should have known better. It was easier to ignore God than to approach Him. .
After a downward spiral, I hit a very hard and cold rock bottom. There is one positive thing I can say about landing there; it’s a great place to contemplate your life, and reevaluate. Rock bottom, presents you with two choices. Set up camp there until you die, or make a game plan and look up? I finally looked up, and realized something very important. God had been there watching me the whole time. He knew all of it, and He was still eagerly waiting for me with an outstretched hand. I didn’t know it because I’d taken my sights off of Him, but He had been there just waiting for me to turn back around and look at Him. He alone, could heal me. He alone, could help me fight that awful banter in my head, with His promises, His love, and with His precious son Jesus Christ.
There was finally a moment that I did bring it all to God, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty. After a serious repentance session, I got back to basics. I made it a point to talk to Him in my heart constantly. Tempted? Pray. Upset? Pray. Angry? Pray. Hopeless? Pray. Failed? Pray. I needed to be in almost constant mental contact with Him, so I could hear His still small voice directing and reassuring me. I focused more on cleaning up my soul, and not my shell and my persona. Focusing on God, meant that I prioritized God’s will over my wants and emotions. God was the presence with me, when my psychologist couldn’t be, and the medicine was not enough. There were decisions to be made that those two other helps, could not aide me in. God was the still strong, but steady voice that told me that He loved me, He was with me, and that He still saw value in me. I could finally hear Him saying, you are not too dirty. I love you. You can’t do this alone, that’s why I’m here to help. Do not listen to the devil, he wants to crush your hope and your drive. Don’t listen to that liar, he wants to distract and destroy you. I’ve already sent my son to free you from those shackles and chains. Don’t put them back on. He helped me out of that terrible hole. Yes, for awhile I did have the help of an antidepressant and a really good psychologist, but plenty of people find that and never recover, but I did.
It’s been almost 20 years since then, and now I have a very healthy relationship with food and my body. I still struggle, but not with those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I still occasionally hear destructive thoughts that bring me anxiety, but they’re much fainter than they used to be, and now the voice of my Father in Heaven seems much clearer, and louder. Now when that destructive banter begins, I do some self evaluation. If I’m feeling this way, is it because I did something wrong and I am needing to take it to God in repentance? If so, fear doesn’t keep me away from Him. I know that He knows I want to reconcile to Him. I try my best to change the sin, apologize and move forward. If the self destructive banter is my insecurities surfacing, I know I need to pray for God to help me focus less on me and trivial insecurities, and more on Him. Then it’s time to read some scriptures and remind myself what is important to Him. This reminds me to make those first priority, and not become distracted with things that may only make me feel better temporarily, when what I need are the things that heal my soul for the long haul.”
A weakness I seem to wrestle with, is that I occasionally I catch myself not really concentrating during my prayers. I hate that. I am praying one moment, and then mentally recapping a conversation I had earlier in the day. Sometimes I don’t even realize it right away. I have prayer ADHD and I have trouble focusing. It’s amazing how I can be so aware of the gravity of repentance one minute, and the next…casually asking God to forgive me of my sins, without feeling the gravity of that actual request. I don’t even understand my own brain sometimes. To have both problems within the same prayer, is a strange dichotomy. I’ve had something on my mind all week, and I think it’s finally formulating in all of this.
Recently, a friend of ours was talking about old testament sacrifice, in detail. He explained that they chose their most perfect animal for sacrifice, healthy and without blemish. Before they killed the animal on the altar, they would place their hand on the animal’s head. It was symbolic of transferring the sins to the sacrifice, and then they would kill the animal and burn it as sacrifice for their sins. He made the remark that, we might feel differently about repentance, if we pictured the head we place our hand on, being the head of Jesus Christ. This imagery suddenly became so very real to me. I began to weep and did for awhile before I could pull myself together. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to look at Jesus’s face while I place my burden on his head. Do I take this lightly sometimes? I’m afraid I sometimes do. When I picture it like this, the pain in my heart is almost unbearable. It’s almost enough to send me back into that dark place, where the lies of a devil riddle me with anxiety and unworthiness; but the love of a Father, knows no bounds. The love of a perfect Father, is unconditional for His children, and if you have made a decision to be His, He will go all Buzz Lightyear to infinity and beyond for you. A Father gives His child every benefit, every advantage, all the help He can. He uses perfect wisdom, and sometimes He steps back, lets go of the handlebars, and lets us excersize what He has taught us, so that we can learn something. He is merciful, empathetic, wise, just, and full of grace. Our Father in Heaven, also happens to be the Greatest Physician there ever was, and He is in the business of healing. Sometimes we bear words and scars in our lives, either due to the effect of someone else’s sin that wounded us, or from our own sin. When we accept God’s help in letting us heal these wounds and scars, we accept that we need Jesus to cover us with his blood. Repentance washes us clean and heals our hearts. We are all imperfect animals not fit to be that perfect sacrifice, and that is precisely why Jesus was willing to be that perfect lamb for us. He knew we could never be that perfect sacrifice, that became necessary with the fall of Adam. Jesus knew we needed his help. He took our place knowing that, and he carried it out with far greater love than we can imagine. We may bear scars, wounds, and even disease from our past, but to God, we are still His lambs if we want to be, and His love makes us whole. We may bear those imperfections until we leave our bodies, but when we come into His presence, we will be perfect, because we will have been washed in the blood of the lamb.
2nd Timothy 1:7-12
7. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
8. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
11. Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
12. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
This song has been on replay in my brain, since the first time I heard it a few weeks ago. My friends, do not let a liar discourage you, from the love you have been promised. We don’t need to love ourselves more, we need to love God more. He loves us enough. My love to you. Huge hugs!