Jesus gave us, as the second greatest of his commands, to love one another as we love ourselves. We esteem this command, as paired with its antecedent, above all other mandates found in the biblical texts—and rightfully so, as Jesus installed it as such.
And with that, we have wrestled and strained, advanced and regressed, won and lost in this posture toward those we call neighbor.
If you’re like me, the two dangling words “as yourself” have earned honorable mention… on occasion… in my contemplation of these words of Christ. But in the relentlessly law-loving lens through which I perceive even these commands, I have not often given much pause to consider what a scriptural application of love… toward myself… might look like.
When he married me, he dared not color outside the lines.
“To offer a vow of the most trustworthy definition of love to you is all I venture to be held to. If I can half keep my understanding of God’s definition, in its clarity and superiority, I believe it will have pleased you, and, prayerfully God as well. I need not add to this.”
And as we exchanged vows that November evening, 1 Corinthians, the thirteenth chapter, was bound about us as man and wife.
“We study so we can pray. The study of theology and the practice of contemplative prayer flow from the one and the same act of divine faith whereby we accept the Truth about God. For the priest, contemplative study provides the inexhaustible and irreplaceable source of everything that he does. No short cuts are available. No one is exempt. The Church developed a Latin adage to capture this basic truth of priestly formation.Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You can’t give what you do not have.
For the Catholic priest, especially the diocesan priest, the separation of study and prayer brings catastrophic results. No one more than the priest needs the experience of contemplative study. The reason is the Headship that the Church confides to the priest. The priest is not ordained to see about the practical details of programs and everyday activities. He is ordained to preach from the abundance of his heart.”
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, aholy nation, a people forGod’sown possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
To proclaim these personhood-making excellencies… to pour from my heart the riches of His merciful love… to walk circumspectly as a priest among priests… who ministers freely from the abundance of my heart… that which I have because it was freely given to me… to hear that it was well done, a command well-kept… a simple vow, simply honored… yes… to these things… I aspire.
Nemo potest dare quod non habet.
You can’t give what you do not have.
And so, I must love myself.
Love is Patient
I will wait for my own heart to be enveloped by the fullness of grace which changes her into what her mind knows to be right. When she fails, I will forgive her, while gently urging her forward.
Love is Kind
When she is bombarded with words traveling harsh vectors, whispering about the curves of her frame or the struggle in her art or the far climb it is still yet to reach her ideals, I will shield my heart, and remind her that upon her the Father has whispered, “this is my daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
It Does not Envy
When her eyes wander in comparison to the gifts and talents of another daughter, or another son, or even a more glorious aspect of her former self if times have been harder of late… I will still her… catch her breath, and remind her that godliness with contentment is greater gain than the reaching for what can’t be had today.
It Does Not Boast, It Is Not Proud
When she is being who she is, and it is acknowledged in the gates… when she accomplishes a hard-won victory… or when the benevolence of God is evident by her radiance, I will teach her that it’s safer to keep small, to give gratitude, to urgently cry for meekness for her safe-keeping. And when a brother or sister finds the day of acclaim, she will not overreact, neither toward comparison nor congratulation, but staying sincere, giving honor for merit she will rejoice appropriately without idol-making or inferiority haunting her chambers.
It Does Not Dishonor Others
And when she finds in her own self, “others,” parts of her which have not yet seen the light of transforming mercies, I will not allow her one moment of shame, but bring her boldly to Grace’s throne… for introductions and long relationships to commence, in which Patience guides the day.
It is Not Self-Seeking
She will love herself by implanting and then embracing with quiet satisfaction the notion that in every strand of her life lies the seed of service to others. If any strand be found wanting, she will contemplate its necessity and function, and if it does not make her a better lover of God or other or self, she will remove it.
It is Not Easily Angered
When she stumbles, aware or unaware, speaking careless word, or performing careless deed… trampling herself or her beloved underfoot, I will catch her, and offer honest and restorative words to her in circumspection, contemplation, and consideration of her gentle soul. She will not mete out anger against herself, but only pour out its libations for the cause of Christ and His liberties, when it can be directed clearly at the offending evil and not herself.
It Keeps no record of Wrongs
My heart will silence the voice who loves to splash shame upon her cheeks at the recall of a lapse in judgment. She will agree with Christ that her sins are remembered no more forever. She will walk with dignity and purpose, sound of mind.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the Truth
When Holy Spirit whispers and the winds of change rustle the pages, she will heed it, not loving the current narrative more than what He does when He makes all things perfect in their Time.
It Always Protects
She will keep guarded, for she is the wellspring of life. From her, all the goodness I can offer to those I love flows, and she will wear these truths as her duty and her joy.
My heart will believe in herself.
My heart will believe in her future self.
Sisters, can you hear these words in your own heart?
Neighbors, from this Bread, infused with His Love, we can break… and give to you to eat.
Christy is a writer and designer. She lives in Austin, TX, with her husband Dan. Together they run a small design shop called Thoughtful Revolution. They are passionate about humbly bringing change by inviting people to ask the questions Jesus came to answer. She is Living a Thoughtful Revolution in simple typefaces at ChristyMcFerren.com.
**Also, there’s a BIG Mother’s Day Blessing Giveaway happening over HERE today–a basket full of goodies, including a copy of Mom in the Mirror! Check it out, and see how you can enter to win!
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