A while back, a friend of mine told me about a dream they had one night. I was on the porch of my house handing out loaves of bread to many passersby, but I never took a loaf for myself. My friend said they were troubled in their dream because I hadn’t taken any bread for myself. I was intrigued by their dream, but really had no idea what it meant, until.......
I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone on the planet who hasn’t suffered some trial or rejection in their life. Some of us have people to catch us when we fall, hold us and remind us we are valuable. For many, there is no one to catch them and sometimes it’s those we normally would think would be there for them, like family or friends, that knowingly or unknowingly push them away in their greatest time of need. When trial and rejection happen, everyone breaks differently and the Mission encounters some of the most broken people in our community. Often, they have been physically, emotionally, or spiritually scarred. For some, all they have ever known is rejection and deep down they have one question, “Do I even matter?”
The reality is, if you don’t think you matter, why would we expect you to be successful, make sound decisions. And how in the world would you be able to love yourself?
I’m not talking about a selfish, self-centered, narcissistic view of ourselves. The one where it’s all about ME! The self-love that manipulates others for our lustful desires. That “love”, really isn’t love. That “love” is lost in lust and deceit and is born out of a misdirected search and demand for significance we can’t find within, so we use others to validate us.
The pain we see every day at the Mission challenges us to love each individual where they are because, even in negative situations, people are searching for value. Jesus, when asked what the greatest commandment was said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. Second is to love your neighbor as yourself.” We often bypass that ‘love yourself’ piece because we are supposed to be humble and not be prideful or selfish. That’s
a correct view. Unfortunately, we get the two ways or types of self-love confused.
Several years ago, God was working on me to help me understand what loving myself meant. One of my daughters called me out of the blue one day and asked me, “Dad, do you love yourself?” I was a bit stunned by her question considering the timing of her call. That same topic had already come up multiple times that week. I had to answer, “Funny you should ask, but I’m not sure I know what that means.” She said, “That’s what I figured. Dad, you are always serving others and putting them before yourself, and I’m guessing you haven’t learned to love yourself.” “Dad,” she said, as only a loving daughter can say to her dad, “you’ve got to start taking care of YOU, and it starts with loving yourself too!” Now I was totally stunned. At the end of the day, as I sat on my chair in the basement, I began to process my friend’s dream about the bread, my daughter’s call, and the out of the blue question, “Dad do you love yourself.” It was then I said, “Okay God – this is awesome. I don’t know how to take any loaves for myself right now, but I get it! To love my neighbor correctly I need to know how to love myself.” I had to admit to myself, after all these years of serving others, I’m just now getting it. I’ve got to love Barry before I can fully love those He sent my way to love and serve.
As I reflected on years of service, I realized I primarily served others out of an obedience to God. Could I really say I’ve loved all these people over the years like I should? Sadly, the answer was no. For years, I looked at the ministry as a project first – obedience to the Lord. While I loved many people along the way and made great relationships, the reality was some became projects before they were people . . . people
that deserved my love. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. I came to realize if I don’t love myself, then I don’t love what God made – ME! And if I don’t love ME, what God made, how could I really love Him?
(Before you read on, think about that one for a moment). To truly love others as God does, I began to understand, I must love what God created, THEM and ME TOO!
Loving others takes various forms. Food and shelter are a form of loving others, but we have to go further than that. We must genuinely love the people before us. Thankfully, God built in me a nature to care for those who suffer. However, He did not build into me a natural love for people. Understand that God is absolutely in love with us. The fact that He doesn’t love us all the same, but that He loves us all uniquely, including me, has been transformational in my life and most assuredly for those who I have the opportunity to help.
Our nation is in an identity crisis today. In western culture, we used to govern ourselves and make important decisions, both personally and as communities, according to our understanding of the words found in scripture. Then, somewhere along the path, we determined the Bible was outdated; it was just some ancient cultural views no longer applicable for the modern era. To many, God was dead or never actually existed. We replaced the scriptures with values, morals and character. Then we asked the question, whose values, whose morals, whose character? Today many make critical decisions both personally and corporately, without a solid foundation on which to anchor. Poverty, hunger, homelessness and compromised community safety are always before us. The awareness of human trafficking, modern day slavery, stealing innocence and a future from the most vulnerable among us. A national crisis of children in need of care without enough safe and loving homes in which to heal, grow and develop. Shootings in schools, market places, the work place, and even churches are now common.
The pressures of bullying through social media. In America the suicide rate rose 24% from 1999 to 2014. In 2016, 44,965 people took their own lives throughout this great nation - an all-time high. So much desperation, so much hopelessness, so much loneliness. A nation in crisis, a lost identity. A nation looking for direction, hope and transformation.
Mother Teresa said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” Yes, there is a remarkable and transformational remedy to our national identity crisis and it’s really quite simple. Just love the one in front of us..... and that starts with the one you see in the mirror, YOU! Regardless how you may feel at this moment, Gods Word says, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” You are absolutely wonderful just being you. Love God. Love your neighbor. And be sure to take a loaf for yourself too. It’s really ok. God designed it that way because He’s absolutely in love with you too!