All you need is love.

As I’m getting older, I’m beginning to realize more and more that people are hard to love. But apparently, God has been trying to tell me something. Everywhere I turn lately, there’s a sermon, a blog post, a tweet, a poem, a song, a lesson on love and loving others. God’s timing couldn’t be more perfect because lately loving others has been one of the hardest things for me to do.

In fact, I’m finding it hard to love myself.

Thus, it has been very difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone to love the not-so-lovable people in my life. Maybe they aren’t very nice to me. Maybe they complain too much. Maybe they drain me emotionally because they take a lot out of me but don’t give anything back. Maybe they’re clingy. Maybe they’re annoying. Maybe they’re ignorant or selfish or rude or self-involved. There are lots of unlovable qualities in this world.

But I’ve found the biggest set-back in me loving others is not the actual people themselves. It’s me.

Truth is, I don’t love myself; I tolerate myself. And I can’t love others if I don’t understand God’s love for me, if I am unable to live in light of my identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

A lawyer once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, and Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:34-40). He even said that upon those two commandments rests all of the Law and the Prophets–meaning that the entire crux of Christianity, of living life, of understanding God–it all rests on loving God and loving others.

And loving yourself.

We forget about that portion of the verse. We hear, “Love others…,” and we tune out the rest. We miss the “as yourself” at the end, and I am realizing how important that phrase is. If I have very little love for myself, I cannot “love others as I love myself.”

Why don’t I love myself? I feel weak. I feel unworthy. I feel useless. I feel unappreciated. I feel ugly. I feel incapable. I feel like people look at me differently than they used to, when I was healthier and more full of energy. I feel like I am not the same Kelsey. I feel defective. I feel unlovable. I’m mad at my own body for being the way it is.

I also have anxiety. Sometimes it feels like it’s holding me back from being a good wife and friend, a good person, a responsible worker. There are moments when I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t know if I can stand. There are times when I lock myself in my closet because I want to escape from life. I am so acutely aware of my shortcomings and failings; anxiety whispers lies to me all the time. I feel haunted by feelings of inadequacy, of self-consciousness, of fear, of hurt.

I start to believe the lies. I can’t find any redeeming qualities about myself. I stop loving myself.

Then it becomes harder to love others. Loving others starts to feel like work because, as soon as you start believing lies about and seeing the worst in yourself, it’s really easy to start doing the same with those around you. When you can’t cut yourself any slack, you don’t want to cut anyone else slack. If you can’t extend yourself grace, why would you extend it to others?

The more I dislike myself, the harder it is to like anyone else. The more impatient I am with myself, the more impatient I am with those around me. The worse I see in myself, the worse I see in others. In fact, I start to see less of God, the Source of love, because I’m blinded by the lies I’m believing.

I’m tired of not loving myself. I’m tired of living in the chains of self-hatred, self-consciousness, and low self-worth. I’m tired of believing the lies. I’m really tired of it love feeling like a chore. I want to love myself again. I want to love people again.

I’m praying for God to grant me the serenity and grace to see myself and everyone else around me as He sees me: as someone worth loving. As someone worth extending grace to. As someone worth dying for. As His beloved. After all, we love because He first loved us.

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