i Love Myself?

The other day I was listening to some music (this is a common thing for humans to do).  The song that was playing was titled “i” by Kendrick Lamar (that’s right, a “secular” song).  There multiple messages of this song that are very interesting, but the one that caught me was the idea of loving yourself.

I think that this is a tricky thing to grab for many Christians because Christ and His ministry (Christianity in general) is so focused on others and humbling oneself in order to serve.  The idea of loving oneself seems so selfish and overly focused on your own needs.  This is not just Christianity, in sports and any group activity their is an expectation of selflessness.  As they say, there is no I in team.  Why would I be so selfish as to love myself?

Let me first say that I do not really disagree with any of those points.  As we all know, we live in a self-obsessed generation that is all about personal gratification.  No I think, we have an issue understanding what it means to love yourself in a healthy fashion, and I don’t think we realize how essential it is to have that type understanding.

Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

This concept is a familiar one not just in America, but around the world.  When it is not associated with Christianity, it is called the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.  However from that perspective it seems to approach self-love as a given.  It appears to illicit that humanity is going to care about itself, and it would be nice to give that care to others as well.  That’s not a terrible message for people to live by, but it still does not address what a healthy self-love is.

As was first stated in the set of verses, the greatest commandment is to love God with everything that you have.  To the Lord is where you focus your gaze, your goals, and grasp.  That relationship with the Lord is where the transformation of the heart occurs.  That is the first love of those who follow the Lord.  Followed by that though, is to love others the way you love yourself.  But what separates this idea from the world’s Golden Rule?

As with everything in the life of a follower, it related back to the relationship with the Lord.  To love yourself means to acknowledge the fact that God made you with purpose and beauty in mind.  It means that He created you with intent to do great things in His Kingdom through you.  It means that you are putting trust and betting your life in Him, and not the things of this world.  It means that you are focused on learning and growing in your true self, not feeding into your perception of what your earthly self could look like with fame or money or other vice.  It means that God made you with love, and consequently, that you would love what He made in you.

“But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?”

That is another line from Kendrick Lamar (sorry to fanboy) in his song “Real”.  In that line he really hits the nail on the head with what is wrong with so many of us (myself included) in today’s world.  For one thing (as the song touched on before) we put so much of our effort into attaining the things that we think will make us happy.  These are things like money, relationships, fame, respect, acceptance, anything that comes into play in our pursuit of happiness.  We chase these things out of selfish ambition to bolster this  image we think we can potentially achieve.   It is really just a projection of what we think will lead to satisfaction and create our own little paradise on earth.

These things are what we put our hope in, and everyone realizes at one point or another that these are just vices we seek to cover the fact that we are broken and out of luck on our own.  Consequently, so many of us have put this effort and “love” into these projections of ourselves, and have never actually learned to love our true selves.  And if we haven’t even figured out how to love ourselves, how can we love others and appreciate their true selves?  How can we show a Spirit filled love when we can’t even find it in ourselves?   How are you not supposed to look at others with a jealous heart when your only understanding of importance is based on the petty things that your culture espouses?  How can you serve God when you are a slave to something insignificant?

Additionally, if you don’t love yourself, how can you believe that God could work through you?  If you don’t believe that God could do a marvelous work in and through your life, why would you accept His call when He gives it to you?  The recognition that the Creator of the universe loves you in an unconditional fashion and believes you are important is the basis for loving yourself in a healthy way.  In order to serve the Lord, you need to acknowledge the fact that you are a meaningful individual who God created for a purpose.

Love does not necessarily equate to adoration or worship.  That type of love is reserved for God alone.  But love for yourself and others has to mean respect, and recognition of each human’s eternal importance to Christ and His Kingdom.

That’s all I have for today.  Hope that I’m not crazy.

Look…Snow!

Winter is great, is it not?  Finally a break from all of those inhumane 60 and 70 degree fall days that practically gave all of us heat stroke.  No longer do we have to deal with a broad spectrum of colors emanating from various types of foliage.  These are merely different chromas of death.  Winter is the aftermath of all that death, sort of barren with depressing hues all around.  However I think we should view this snow covered season as a blank canvas that has just been washed clean of all the dirt and grime of the previous year.

I like to think that it is no coincidence that the new year occurs during this time of year, and consequently that resolutions are made.  Now I have never been big on the New Year’s resolution business.  I understand the importance of setting healthy goals, but it seems so arbitrary to do so just because it coincides with the calendar.  I could be wrong, but I think lasting, significant change occurs because of something that you have experienced or been impacted by.  My opinion is also vindicated each year when millions of people can’t keep these resolutions for even a month.  If your goal is forced upon you by some sort of quirky cultural ideal, it probably is not going to stick.

However, what this season does offer is a fresh start of sorts, a blank canvas.  Dare I say, a new earth.  The things that have died over the course of the season will soon bloom again (soon may mean April for Illinois residents, sorry), life will be brought back, and the aura of possibilities and opportunity will fill the air.  That can be true of your personal life as well.  S.A.D.ness has an effect on everyone this time of year because the bleakness of the season sends us humans into thinking that life itself is bleak and desolate.

Sometimes it takes reflection to show us that these feelings of hopelessness and melancholia are not from God, but are a result of neglect of God.  God is love.  God is Hope.  God is not necessarily heat in the midst of bitter cold, but He is Joy in all circumstances.  I wish I were better at explaining this concept, but those who know what your heart is like when Spirit-filled, as compared to when it is Spirit-less, know exactly how wide a dichotomy of feeling that is.

So, as most of these posts end, turn your eyes, ears and heart to God and all will be good.  Love God and love others (and love yourself, hopefully I remember to talk about that in my next post).  Bye.

Oh What a Nice Basket of Fruit

“The Basket of Apples” by Paul Cezanne

 

This is a painting from the Art Institute of Chicago.  It is the backdrop to the following haikus.

 

An apple a day

Will keep the doctor away,

Wait…that is absurd!

 

A beautiful work

That only exists because

Paul shows fruit neglect.

 

What is that white cloth?

A napkin or pillow case?

That’s some soft cotton.

The Believer

It is not very often that the lyrics of a secular musical are repeated and dissected on a site such as this, but that is because it seems like many Christians are scared to delve into the messages of secular artists.  There are multiple reasons to, at the very least, diagnose the messages in non-Christian arenas.  This can allow you be aware of the crap (undesirable messages) that frequently show up in popular music, and inform your kids, siblings, friends, or acquaintances of the kinds of harmful messages they may be overlooking.

Additionally, listening to a “non-Christian” artist could allow you to occasionally find a gem or positive message from a source you may not be used to.  Because though there may not be a ton of mainstream artists who profess Christ, there are still lots of talented artists with intriguing things to say.

On my mind today was the song The Believer by Common (ft. John Legend).  This final track off of Common’s The Dreamer, The Believer album is a uplifting anthem about pursuing ones dreams and dealing with the pain of everyday life. The first 8 bars of the first verse go:

These are the words of a believer
Achiever, leader of the globe
Feeding souls of those in need
I bleed the blood of the struggle

Walking over troubled puddles
Hustles in my chest, no hustle no progress
Extremities of life and it’s process
Birth of a son, death of another
With love I caress both mothers

And told ‘em, who’s in control is the one that’s above us

From the jump, the focus of the message is belief and care for those in need.  But also a recognition that we have all faced  and learned things that we can pass on to those who are going through it now (“I bleed the blood of the struggle”).

These bars also stress that life is a rollercoaster that is filled with beautiful moments (“Birth of  a son”), as well as instances of pain and anguish (“death of another”).  Love is the thing that gives meaning to the triumph and helps repair the hurt (“With love I caress both mothers”).  And most importantly, you need to recognize and take comfort in the fact that God is in control of every situation (“who’s in control is the one that’s above us”).

It really is an excellent song and I would urge anyone to take a listen to it (that was only 8 of 64 bars).  And I also urge all of you to continually become a more informed member of different cultures and mediums.  As that old Christian cliche goes, you should be in the world and not of it.  That means you do have to make an attempt to be in it and understand it.

Be You

In my post today I would like to talk about being yourself.  Oh how cliche that term is and overused it is, but I don’t think most people understand what that entails.  In America, being yourself means doing what you want and shrugging off anything to the contrary.  However no one is ever satisfied with where they are at the moment, so they wish for things they don’t have and strive to be like everyone else.  Essentially they forget the primary tenant of being yourself.

People are so obsessed with things and status that who they were created to be does not really enter the fray of their consciousness.  God forbid someone look, act, or be interested in something different than what a dominant group considers normal.  The world will tell you to find your lane and don’t stray from it, but I don’t know anyone who only operates in one lane (interest or way of life).

God created you to reflect Him, but also to be different than anyone who came before you or will come after.  And do not ever be brought down by someone saying you are not normal.  Being normal is boring and I (with my evident 70′s sensibilities) am under the impression that conforming is giving into “the man”, and who would want to do that.  Do you.