In evangelical circles self is a word that is spit out like rotten milk. The thought of self being anything other than dirty, broken, shameful and full of sin is a foul taste in the mouth of the church.
When I came to faith it was taught that I had to put all thoughts of self away, and that I was supposed to put everything and everyone before me; God, my husband (that I still don’t have) my kids, the people in the church and “the lost” felt deafening to my always put last heart.
I did it though because I was supposed to. Doing anything other than that was rebellious and sinful.
What I struggled with was being taught that because we are “The Body of Christ” that when everyone is meeting each other’s needs no one will be left with an empty cup.
It did not work that way, my cup was dry and….
I did not even know who I was or what I needed.
Leaving that teaching behind, letting go of the thought that “self” is a foul word has been an extremely difficult process. It’s been a part of my overall process in therapy. As I work through and peel away the layers of trauma and deep wounds the need for love goes deeper.
The thought of self was scary because I believed that inherently I was bad, sinful and terrible without Jesus and that if I could just keep praying, going to this bible study or just listen to a little bit more Christian music that I would find out who I was and be infinitely loved MORE by Jesus.
I am who I am with Jesus – regardless
When those layers of deep hurt started to fall away and the light of Bethany started to show through I started to see that in fact in I had legitimate needs that had to be met. That was an incredibly terrifying thought.
Some were simple. Like learning that it’s okay to not answer my phone, check social media or go to events because I would rather watch My Little Pony with Abigail.
Or that I really like baths, and reading in them, and writing poetry on the walls.
I had to say no to meals for people because I really couldn’t do it. I was sick myself and needed to try and feed Abigail and I first and those that said they were going to help us didn’t.
There was one that was a lot bigger. Finding my voice. Learning to speak this new language of boldness and bravery where I am no longer afraid to speak truth, healing and love over my life.
It was also time to accept that going to church is not a healthy environment for me right now. The words I hear, the falseness and theatrical like presence on the stage is not healing or safe.
That was a big one. Admitting that feels huge. It feels heavy and light at the same time because I know that there are many who don’t agree.
“But you NEED community”
“How are you getting fed?”
“Don’t allow the enemy to let you isolate?”
The truth I had to come to in my heart after a lot of time with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (and a lot of therapy) is this Matthew 19:19:
“Love your neighbor as you do yourself” (MSG)
I cannot in any way love any one or give to them if I do not first love and meet my needs. Growing up neglected, put last and not having the very basic needs of life met changes the way a person views relationships and give/take. Establishing a loving relationship with a whole, Christ centered Bethany then allows me to pour into those I love.
The Study of Self
I don’t believe that in self we are inherently bad, terrible or dirty people. I believe that #shithappens and we learn coping skills that cause us to make choices that lead us away from a loving God. When we see Him as He is, He restores those choices and causes us then to see how beautiful and whole we are because HE made us that way; from the beginning in His image.
I am learning to love me. To love my flaws, my quirks and my positive attributes.
It’s a new process to start to see the things God has to refine with a positive lens (not meaning the behaviors are okay themselves. Rather separating my core self from the behavior) instead of letting hatred take over; it becomes easier to show them to God and allow His grace to enter in. When I am able to see them with the eyes of my Christ centered self, rather than in one of the parts of me that feels terrified it becomes easier to allow them to come into the Light. Rather than pray harder, read more verses, serve and bless others more and stop being self-absorbed.
I don’t believe this is a message of self-absorption, selfishness or saying “STOP doing things for others.” I don’t believe that at all. However I believe that to love and give and be able to sacrifice truly and beautifully in the image of God one must deeply love themselves, meet their needs and pour into their own cup.
I am in the midst of a dramatic intersection of faith, life and art. If you would like to know more about what fills my cup:
*Changing Leaves and cool fall mornings
*Internet turned deeply bound heart friends
*Being enmeshed with The Spirit regardless
*My Little Pony with Abigail
*Washing my daughter’s hair
*Dread party vox’s
* MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC!
*Black out poetry
*Reading in the bath
*Healing and recovery
*My story sisters
Go to the link above to my friend Mandy’s website and check out her yummy-ness but FIRST buy her book Thrashing about with God
I’ll be writing a full on review as soon as I am done reading it but what I can say now that this post came out of pieces of this book. And Mandy, well Mandy has a beautiful heart that shows how amazing the intersection between faith/art is and how thrashing it out becomes beautiful.
October 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm
Man, love this so much. I always wondered why I felt so empty when “community” was supposed to be filling me if I just put everyone else first. D’oh. Oddly, I’m so much more available for others now that I take care of myself first. For me it’s baking, writing, singing pop music in the car at the top of my lungs, snuggling with family, reading cheesy mystery novels, baths, and recipe blogs 🙂
October 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm
I love this. I think the elephant in the room of Christianity is that a lot of time, church seems really pointless…or even harmful, and we don’t want to admit it. I like that you love yourself. If you hate yourself, the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing sucks for you and your neighbor.
October 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm
That’s a lot of what I struggled with before I started to leave behind my fundamentalist self. Everything I did for my neighbor, friend, or brother and sister in Christ was out of duty. Because it’s what we did, what we were told to do and told to do with no regards to our own needs.
Now I’m learning to love me, love my neighbor, love the homeless man on the side of the road with true Christ like love rather than a sense of duty like “well my family can have McDonald but Suzy Q needs a home cooked meal because……”
We can love outwardly so much better when we love US, the us God made.