2 Timothy 2:22 encourages us to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Fleeing and pursuing both involve intentional and prompt movement. The exhortation suggests that these movements are identical in purpose and execution. To flee with no pursuit results in aimless wandering incited by fear and resulting in emptiness. To simply flee youthful passions without the pursuit would be to rejoice over an empty cup in a dry desert because it has no sand in it while as yet there is no water inside to quench your thirst. This is not to say that we should disregard the flight, but it is easy to become motivated by fear, anxiety or self-righteousness instead of calling on the Lord from a pure heart. Jesus proclaims that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed with satisfaction. In a sense, the pursuit of righteousness is itself righteous and deserving of blessing. We are to strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace in that order in accordance with the ordinance defined by God. It is encouraging to know that there are others who we can flee and pursue along with.
I hate myself. It is not what it sounds like. A video on YouTube by Boyinaband of the same title as this post expressed certain fears and insecurities that Dave was experiencing. This talented intellectual musician struck up the courage to announce to the world what he was going through in order to keep himself accountable and genuine. I will now attempt to do the same. Would someone ask me if I struggled with self-image issues or insecurities of that nature, I would not admit to it — not because I am in denial but for the reason that to simply say yes would not nearly encapsulate the reality of my situation. The truth is that I love myself too much to love myself at all. The definition of love that I have for myself is governed by my desires, lust and selfishness. However, what I want is so often not what is best for me. My choices and actions may bring me transient gratification, but are often detrimental to my health: physically, emotionally and foremost spiritually. I deny the indelible fulfillment of my wants and needs that only God can provide. What He has for me and is to me is not simply better; it is the only solution in existence. The disparity between my knowledge of this panacea and my self-gratifying decisions leads to a cascade of implications. Not only do I devalue the gift of God, I refuse to accept His value for me. It is not possible to attain a higher level of value than what God attributes to us. But as soon as I separate myself from Him, I assume a lesser view of myself, though I may think it better. This very act is hatred towards myself as I denounce the value God has placed on me and withhold the blessings He chooses to give me. My love for others and for myself can only mature in relation to my love for God and acceptance of His love for me.
If you have not read the post titled Love Yourself, make sure you do that before continuing to read this. Have you noticed how God always sets the example for us whenever He gives us a command to follow? God has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. Implicit in this command is the idea that we have to love ourselves. Analogously, God’s love for us extends from the love that He has for Himself. This is quite a remarkable concept to comprehend. God does not need anything external to Himself to define His value or purpose. He has no need for anything from anyone. It is from this limitless love for Himself that He is able to love us through creating us and saving us from ourselves. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV)
Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This sounds simple enough, but why are we so bad at it? Some people might say that they love themselves too much to love others. But what if we don’t even know how to love ourselves? What we desire and pursue so often is not what is actually beneficial to our own well being. We think that we know what is best for ourselves, but our own fleshly desires get in the way of seeking the things that God has for us, which are better beyond comparison. We don’t love ourselves correctly because we don’t love God enough, and we don’t love God enough because we haven’t fully accepted His love for us. We try to earn love, but we as humans can never deserve love. The truth is that God loves us in spite of who we are. And this is where love all begins: love for God, love for ourselves and love for our neighbors.
To love and be loved. Isn’t that what it is to be human? Didn’t God make us for that very reason? Hasn’t He built that same desire into us? No, much more than a desire. A need. To love and be loved.
This evening, I was wondering what God can teach us through a breakup. I realized that our imperfect love for each other is often dependent on the other person and subject to our own fluctuations in devotion and motivation. During a breakup, one person decides that the other is no longer worth loving (romantically at least). I have experienced this rejection and it is easy to feel like I have lost all of my value. But God never stopped loving us even when we rejected Him. God does not love me because I have value; I have value because He loves me. All of this pain of rejection from someone I deeply loved pales in comparison to the extent to which God loves me.
It is simple enough for me to know that I am loved, but it is difficult for me to feel loved. One would think that certainty would need to assurance or security, but I find that that is seldom true, at least for myself. I am not entirely sure where the disconnect is. Maybe the desire to feel loved is just a form of selfish lust.
Many marriages start of with what is called the honeymoon stage: where both individuals are filled with excitement and ecstatic emotions. Arguably, one might not notice the flaws or undesirable attributes in the other until after this phase expires. However, it is in my opinion (based on my large amount of experience…) that this stage of the relationship is the most desirable state. As pointed out by Oswald Chambers in today’s reading from My Utmost for His Highest, God desires for us to return to the time when we first fell in love with him. In Jeremiah 2:2, He recalls the love of our betrothal. While God has no flaws to discover, both relationships pay no regard to selfish desires or interests. The honeymoon stage is a time of full devotion and admiration and selfless love.
A while ago, I asked God to give me love. I just realized that He is doing so in a very amazing way. In Galatians 5, several attributes of love are listed as manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I have recently received the joy of the Lord and the peace that passes all understanding. Right now, God is testing my patience. This could take a while…
Distant memories of time spent together
But never a mutual conversation
Mutual observers and quite admiration
Childish repultion or bashful demeanor
Would limit our talk to necessity
Sporadicity and brevity
And now as years have deceased
A friend I never had