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The Order of Love

I have noticed something I find alarming. Many people, especially women, though not exclusively women, have very low self-esteem. Over the years I became quite attuned to spotting these folks perhaps because I was one myself. But what I find alarming are the number who, even into their senior years, still bear this very heavy burden, unresolved, and unrecognized. Being oh so cumbersome, it still very much masters or at least shapes their lives.

A dear and beloved pastor and mentor came to me years ago as I was struggling. Being used and abused I could not fully see why this was happening. Oh indeed I felt the pain of rejection. I recognized the cyclical patterns, the hopeful highs and the despairing lows. The degradation and humiliation was my normal. But I never really understood the why of it all, the source, for many years. I never knew why I was allowing it. And many people in my inner circle never really saw it in me, but she did.

She asked me an important question which changed my world. She asked me to tell her the order of love.

“What?” I asked.

“Tell me the order of love,” she said a second time.

“You love God first, then others, then yourself,” I stammered.

“No, try again,” she said.

I repeated what I had said the first time but more slowly.

“You love God first….then others….and then yourself.”

“No, tell me the verse. Recite the verse,” she said.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) TLB

“Where is the third place?” she asked, then paused. “There is no third place,” she stated.

This revelation hit me like a ton of bricks! I was absolutely gob smacked as this fact slowly began to sink into my being. Then she took hold of my shoulders and added the most critical part looking me straight in the eye.

“Don’t you know that you are so valuable to the Father that he sent his son to die for you? That is how much you are worth to Him….so why do you not value yourself?”

In due course this changed my behavior, and thus, my life. At the time I already knew this, at least my head did. I’d been raised in church. But I never internalized this. My heart didn’t know it. It was my ah ha moment!

I began to understand that I was allowing the things that were happening to me. To my mind I had simply been keeping the peace in my home through my compliance. I was turning the other cheek as I’d been taught. Yet somewhere in the midst of this seemingly desirable behavior I lost me. I was drowning. But now suddenly I did began to understand the truth.

We should look back to identify possible sources for low self-esteem but afterwards, in the end, it is about moving ahead not wallowing in the past, not allowing yourself to be treated in this manner any more. Learn from it.

As I grew up I learned I couldn’t earn my way to heaven but I did somehow get the distorted message that the more self-sacrificing I became, the closer to God I would be. In what universe was I ever supposed to take care of me? To one day hear that I am the head and not the tail was absolutely foreign to me! (Deuteronomy 28:13)

And then I heard that song that says when he was on the cross I was on his mind-what, really? That threw me. I knew he died for me but he had died for all us sinners, right? How could I ever be important enough that someone would write such a thing in a song?

Fast forward to today. I read a lovely blog last week at Tea with Jennifer called, “Take care of yourself, love.” I honestly never ever knew when I was young that I was to care for myself, to stand up for myself, to value and defend myself. Now I so often see this same mindset in others and it makes my heart hurt. Many, many mature adults don’t know their own worth. They go through life wearing blinders, unaware or afraid to become the masterpiece they are called to be in Christ Jesus….and that masterpiece is priceless!

It took a lot, and I mean a lot, of soul-searching and hard work to gain proper perspective on this. It’s not easy to change the beliefs that formed in us when very young. Somehow my views were all askew. Self-care versus self-sacrifice should never be. As Jennifer points out, we are to care for our bodies and minds. We are the stewards of this temple (body) we’ve been given. And beyond that, now many years later I can tell you this.

I am the daughter of the King of Kings.

I know I am loved and I am treasured. I am free!

I am a child of God.

But to all who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children … (John 1:12).

I am a friend of Jesus.

I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

I have been accepted by Christ.

Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God's glory (Romans 15:7).

My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

I am a new creature in Christ.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away--look, what is new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

I have been set free in Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery . Galatians 5:1

God loves me and has chosen me.

We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you … (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

The more truths we know about who we truly are in Christ, the more we understand his love for us. I am his treasured, one and only…

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