Another devotional, this time from Liz Milani @ Pocket Fuel
I'm not sure which is more challenging, loving yourself or loving others.
Loving your Self often gets labelled as conceited, or arrogant, or self-indulgent. Then there's the idea running around that your Self is wicked and not to be trusted, and how could you possibly love your Self that needs saving from itself? (we'll talk about this in a series to come, but for now, I'll say this: The Christ doesn't save you FROM yourself or from hell; The Christ saves you TO yourself which is a heavenly place to live from.)
Loving others is fraught with strife. You can't control other people. You can't control whether your love will be respected, valued, or even returned. You cannot control whether love will fail or be harmful or be helpful. You can't tell what people are thinking, or feeling, or expecting. Loving others can feel all too risky for our certainty-loving hearts. Is it worth it? Are people worthy of your love? Of your affection? Of your belonging?
The writer of 1 John said:
"Delightfully loved ones, if God loved us with such tremendous love, then "loving one another" should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God's splendor. But if we love one another, God makes Gods permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in God, and Gods love is brought to its full expression in us." (1 John 4:11-12.)
Thomas Merton said:
"The only way to make a man worthy of love is by loving him.""
Frederick Buechner said:
"Wherever people love each other and are true to each other and take risks for each other, God is with them and for them and they are doing God's will."
There is just love and the level at which we let it flow between us. Which, like loving yourself, is about being open. It's not straight forward, it's messy and muddy and earthy and wild and wonderful and full of heartache. It takes grace and faith and confession and repentance and a crapload of forgiveness. The thing with relationships is that even the bad things that happen to us can be a catalyst for opening our hearts even more.
As Rumi said, "You have to keep breaking your heart till it opens."
If your heart must break, let it break open.
Boundaries are important. Loving others isn't a blank cheque for being a doormat and letting others abuse you. Forgiveness is not the same thing as trust. And when you love yourself enough, you will be able to use boundaries in relationships to keep you safe, and thereby, even more open-hearted. It is not sinful or wrong to love yourself enough to end a relationship that is harmful. That is what love would want you to do.
I wonder what barriers exist between you and others? What prejudices keep us from each other? What addictions to pride, and moments of stubbornness, separate us and keep us divided?
Healthy spirituality unifies, not divides. It gathers and opens and grows and learns and becomes. With boundaries, yes. With wisdom, yes. But you'll know you're on the right path when your boundaries set you free to continue to love yourself and others as best you can in the season you're in with what you have.
Isn't that what we're here for anyway? To return to, and continually discover, the mysteries of God, of love, and our place in it all?
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." (Rumi.)
There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. And there is nothing others can do to make your love free from risk and failure. There is only the flow of love and the level of which we let it run between us.
And I pray you would let it run and flow and pour your whole life long.
I'm not sure which is more beautiful, loving yourself or loving others. Or perhaps, the better thing to say is how beautiful is it, this love that we share.
Written by Liz Milani.