Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Loving Others, Loving Ourselves
I have been noticing a common thread that seems to weave itself through people dealing with chronic pain, fatigue, and other weirdness that chronic illness brings. I noticed it because I have seen in play out in my own life over, and over, and over again.
I know this has been the hardest part for me - learning to be OK with the fact that I can't do what I used to do. I do believe that the reason it is so hard to move beyond this is because it's wrapped up in guilt. I let my boss and co-workers down because I had to stop working. Living on disability meant having to move away from my son, so I let him down. I can't do all the fun outdoor activities my husband and I did while we were dating, so I let him down, and on and on it goes.
I was watching a very moving segment on Joyce Meyer. She was interviewing a man who had lost his wife of 45 years to cancer. What I found incredible was his determination NOT to ask that unanswerable question - why. Asking 'why' keeps us stuck in our pain and our past. I have spent six years stuck in this question. Just when I think I've moved on, up it pops again! I am finally understanding that I have a choice to make. I can stay stuck in 'why' and waste my life or I can leave it in God's Hands. It's not my responsibility to understand why. It's my responsibility to live my life in a way that honors and glorifies Him!
Almost every post I read these days is filled with people pushing themselves beyond reason so that they can bake, shop and clean in preparation for the Christmas festivities. I have read the words of women completely overwhelmed by the pain and exhaustion they were putting themselves through; and why? Because they thought they HAD to! I get that, really I do! I have done the same each time we have company. I also end up wallowing in guilt and self-pity each time I can't live up to what I think are the expectations of myself and others.
I had an epiphany today. I thought about how I would feel if my son was dealing with debilitating pain and fatigue. How would I feel if he pushed himself to the point of a flareup and crash just to keep me happy?? I would NEVER want him to do that! How selfish would that be for me to insist that he do something that brings him pain just to keep my expectations propped up and happy??
Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. So what happens if we don't love ourselves? We trample over our needs and allow others to do the same. We sacrifice to the point of physical collapse and feel guilty and useless if we don't. Sorry folks, but that is not love. What do we do if other people refuse to "get" our limitations? That is their problem, not ours! We can't control how others will respond to us, but we can control how we choose to respond to them.
I wish I could say I had all this figured out, but I'm still in the process of discovery myself. What I am seeing more clearly is that disrespecting my own health and needs doesn't help anyone. I also know that if we continue to allow people to control our actions, we will never be free. If we continue to push ourselves to meet everyone's expectations, how will we ever get the support we desperately need? The people who truly love us and don't want to see us suffer will understand. For the one's who don't, that is their choice NOT our responsibility.
At some point we need to make a decision to love ourselves. Notice how Jesus didn't say "love yourself as others love you". When we freely accept God's love and we learn to love ourselves as His creation, we can then allow that love to flow freely on to others - without strings attached. That is when we enter God's rest.
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Do you relate to any of this? Are there any changes you feel you need to make? How do you see 2014 playing out - worse, differently, the same, or better?
I wish everyone great joy and peace as we celebrate the birth of Christ. I pray that you will allow yourself to enter into His rest. See you in 2014!!