Wednesday, November 04, 2009

As you love yourself

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

It's not exactly an unknown passage of scripture. In fact, in the circles I grew up in, it's probably one of the most quoted passages I know, along with "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

It is, however, a passage I'm pondering in new ways after several conversations recently with a dear friend about the current state of being (physical, emotional and spiritual) that I find myself existing in.

It's that second bit that gets me. I'm pretty good (oh dear that sounds proud...) at loving others. I've not only been taught for nearly my whole life that others come first, but my heart genuinely leaps into caring deeply, often, much to my chagrin, without consulting me first! I'm not so good at the "as you love yourself part", and, I suppose that that makes me less than adequate at the loving others part. Because if the love I have for myself is anemic, and that is what I offer to others, then the love I'm giving is less than whole and life-giving either.

My friend's point was relatively simple. I need to rest, and I need to care for myself. Years of depression, followed by years not marked by depression, but by other challenges, followed by these last two years of incredible exhaustion, stress, grief, and relational challenges, have left me physically depleted (not to mention emotionally and spiritually). To some extent I knew this already, but the point was perhaps hammered home in a new way after our multiple conversations around the topic.

My argument was this - planning my schedule around me feels selfish. Time spent solely on me, resting, though necessary, is driving me crazy. I feel like I spend all of my time considering myself, and that clashes with my upbringing that others come first. I don't like feeling selfish or so self-involved. When I couldn't immediately produce scripture to support my position that others were more important, my friend broke in quietly with "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

And those words have been ringing in my ear since she quoted them to me.

I found myself thinking about balance as I drove to work this morning.

After two very rough weeks that underscored oh so many areas of my life that need some attention right now, and a severe emotional crash on Friday, I entered this week with a new resolve to make changes. To heal. The same friend sent me a note that contained the reminder to "let your brain and heart heal... and fight for it... every day..." Good advice, really.

But after only a couple of days, I find myself struggling with balance. I've fit in some of the prescribed lifestyle changes, and I'm making the attempt to make some dietary changes as well. But two days in I feel like my spiritual life is suffering. Like some of the lifestyle changes are eating into the time and energy I'd previously spent on time reading scripture and prayer. Because by the time I fit the extra things in, I'm finding myself so exhausted that it is easy to give in to the temptation to scrap my scheduled time with God and just go to bed.

I was thinking about all of this as I drove because it was another night that can only be described as full of intense spiritual encounters. Because if I don't somehow manage to find that time with Jesus, I'm not going to manage to survive those kinds of nights.

And yet, I feel like pushing too much when I need to be resting is a challenge too.

As you love yourself, it turns out is a rather unique problem to have to address.