The bible is filled with verses, passages, and parables concerning being a Christian. And it makes sense that to be a Christian one needs to love. But what does love really mean for a Christian.
In Deuteronomy 6:5 it is stated: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” And in Mark 12:30 it is stated: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love with all your heart and soul and love as you love yourself.
For me that doesn’t seem to be easy – first how do I love with all my heart and soul when I am learning about my heart and soul and how do I love someone as myself. I have to admit, I sometimes don’t have the best image of myself. So I took some time to discover how I love myself and came up with the following:
I LOVE MYSELF: for who I am… for my attitudes… for my skills… for my limitations… for my mistakes… for those parts of me I don’t see or are unwilling to see… for my fears…
Wow, loving myself is hard. It’s a lot easier to love someone else in my mind and God knew that! Look at the verse – love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a 2-letter word that changes everything. The word tells me where to begin – with myself first. Before I can love someone else I have to first focus internally on myself and then externally on others.
Seems backwards to me. Everything I see and read and am told is about dealing with others – when in fact it’s about starting with me. So I started with me and asked myself what is holding me back from Love. Perhaps my thoughts and reflections may help you to examine and think about what love means to you.
Here’s what I discovered: Love is staying positive in the face of challenge by accepting those around me as children of God. As I thought about this, I wondered what made staying positive so difficult. Then I realized the key word in this discovery is challenge. As I asked myself “What are challenges?’, I realized that it was any event or circumstance that caused me to act out of fear. Now I begin to see how difficult love can be, because when fear rises to the top of my mind or actions it causes me to not act out of love.
What challenges are you currently facing that are causing you to act out of fear instead of love? Love is accepting fear – being with it – learning about it – what it looks like, feels like, smells, like, etc. Many times I think that if I accept the fear it will make me stronger, when in fact it allows me to let God work within me. The more I accept the fear and let it be a part of me, the more I let God make me who God desires me to be and become. It is through fear that God gives us the choice to become who God desires each of us to be and become.
Where in your life are you not accepting fear? What would it take for you to accept that fear so you can become what God desires you to become – an expression of God’s love in the world. Facing fears can be very difficult, but accepting fears becomes life’s challenge and perhaps life’s spiritual work. It is work to accept fear. And that work can be hard, challenging, tiring, and lonely.
Being on a conscious spiritual path is hard work. Sometimes it may feel that the work doesn’t pay off and sometimes it can be glorious to see the result of the work. Either way it’s a choice to accept fear and walk the spiritual path or not to accept fear and walk the path of unknowing.
What will it take for you to start the path, get back on the path, or continue on the path? Loving yourself is the first step to loving God and then others. Will you take the time and effort to love every aspect of yourself and thus honor that God how made you in God’s image. Loving yourself means you can share that love freely with others and love others unconditionally!
Dave Piltz, CLM
Written for the Young Adult Newsletter, The PRESS