“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 22:39 (KJV)
Today, I made a decision that was SO hard for me to make. I placed a phone order for something I have been wanting….well needing, for a very long time. And I felt no guilt about it….not a bit. In fact, I felt very fulfilled and gratified when I hung up the phone.
As women, wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, and girlfriends, we are accustomed to doing things for others. We sacrifice, serve, look out for, mend, cook, clean, and accommodate in countless ways every day of our lives….automatically. We have big hearts, and we never count the cost….to ourselves. There are demands upon us from the moment our eyes open in the morning, until we drop exhausted into bed, and our eyelids finally close at night. And then our minds are racing, thinking of all the things we should have done, could have accomplished, or wish we would have handled differently. Then regret sets in, and we beat ourselves up until we finally drift off into a blissful wonderland where sleep overtakes remorse and worry. We stay there off and on for several hours, and then we get up and start the cycle all over again.
I am tired. I have been on a marathon of self-deprivation and sacrifice for years. I have run until my stamina is diminished, and I have hit a brick wall, physically and emotionally. God began to open my eyes to my condition a few months back by allowing certain physical symptoms I have been ignoring to become more pronounced. They’ve worsened to the point of being “in my face” enough that I can ignore them no longer. I guess you could say I have burned out.
Stress wreaks a lot of havoc on the physical body and upon the nerves. We don’t realize it, at first. We give and give and give of ourselves, thinking there is an unending supply that will never run out. In the process, we overlook our own needs for survival. People come to take us for granted and lose their appreciation for us and all we do, because we are just always there and so ready to meet THEIR needs. They place undue burdens and their own stress upon us, and we, in our “wonder-woman” mentality, try to absorb it into our own nature, never realizing that it is dangerously damaging and diminishing our own constitution.
I am a wholehearted, all-the-way-or-nothing kind of gal. I never give with half my heart, and I do not harbor underlying, selfish, ulterior motives….ever. If it says to give 100%, I do that, and then I look for ways to go over and beyond. I pour my heart into every relationship, project, and yes, most definitely, ministry God allows to come my way. I take the command of Jesus to “deny yourself” way beyond what He intended when He said that. But, I didn’t realize that…I was blinded to it….until recently. We can be so caught up in “serving” and “catering to” others that, in the process, we lose our own identity. We forget, or more likely, we overlook, the fact that we are a person, too.
There is a chain of Biblical priorities that God has opened my eyes to see. It has taken me a long time to figure out what He was trying to tell me, but I think I finally understand. First of all, I am a woman. God made me that way. He made the conscious choice at my conception that I would be female. Along with that package comes a complex, hard-to-figure-out composition, and one that has a great and vast capacity to love and give and contribute. But, along with all of that, I am limited. I am not wonder-woman. I can only do so much. Beyond that, I need to stop. And I have needs. I need to take care of myself and be the steward God is requiring me to, so that I can efficiently wear all of the other hats I am blessed to wear in the course of a day. I need to eat properly and often enough. I need to say “NO” when I am not feeling well and stop and rest when I am tired. And it is okay to feel weak and unequal to the task.
Secondly, I am God’s child. He redeemed my soul through His Own blood shed on
Calvary. I am precious to Him. He cares about me enough to stop me when I am heading down a path of self-destruction. There are a lot of ways to self-destruct other than drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and other addictions and indulgences.
Thirdly, I am Kevin’s wife. He deserves the best that I can be to him. He is a faithful, loving, devoted husband to me, and when there is a choice to be made between someone else needing me and him needing me? Well, it isn’t a choice….not at all. He comes first, right after God.
Fourth, I am Zachary's mother. Zachary is precious. He is growing….very quickly. One day, he will be grown, and I will wonder where in the world the time went. He needs me….today. He needs his Mama to be 100% in the here and now. If he has an issue, it needs to be dealt with…now…not later….not after I finish ministering to so-and-so.
Fifth, I am a daughter. Thank God, I still have a mother, and I cherish my time with her. She is 83. She has needs unique to an elderly person, and the thing is…one day she will not be here. For me to visit, for me to call, for me to spend time with. I will miss that…terribly, just like I miss my Dad. So, while she is here, I will seize the opportunities, and I will treasure every second.
After all of these, I am a sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, cousin, friend, and many other things to various people. So many relationships and demands in this life, and the secret to be successful is to have them all in the right order. Once we realize where our priorities should lie, a whole lot of stress is relieved, isn’t it?
I’m glad I made that phone call and placed the order today. I have made excuses for years….that I couldn’t afford it, and everyone else’s needs were more important than mine. But, God has gently shown me that in order to be what I should be to others, I need to take care of me first. That isn’t selfishness. That is good stewardship. We are stewards over our own bodies, and when we neglect ourselves, it grieves the Lord. I am finally seeing the light. There will always be people who will impose themselves and try to make us feel guilty for not being their savior.
So, how about you? Do you love yourself? Is there a phone call that YOU need to make? I want to encourage you to do it for YOU, my friend. Did you catch what Jesus said in today’s passage (Matthew 22:37-39)? “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” As thyself? As myself??? That never hit me like it has lately. If I loved my neighbor as I love myself…hmmm…I don’t think I would treat anyone very good or love them much at all. This Scripture proves to me that we are to place value upon who we are…upon the person God created when He made you and me.
Kevin, Zachary, and I recently went through the depths of mental anguish due to a situation we were in. God, through a very difficult passage, led us out of it, and we are all three now in a mode of healing. I feel like He is restoring our souls. He had to let me hit rock bottom before I could come to the realization that I cannot be everything to all people. That I need to take care of me, because I am important to Him, and I matter. So do you, my friend. So do you....more than you realize. The lessons that stick with us the most are the ones that were hardest to learn.