It’s a funny thing about loving ourselves: it sounds like such a simple thing to do–to turn the eyes of love on ourselves. But love is more demanding than that. We cannot love ourselves and continue the behaviors that come between us and God. Shortly after I surrendered my life to Christ, I was brought up short by the commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. It took me days to list all the gods that I put before God: from what anyone else thought of me to anxiety and fear to a sugar addiction to anger, bitterness and resentment to the cultural mores to my own expectations about how my life should go.
The list covered pages; I called it “gobs of gods.” Over the last thirty years God and I have worked on this list. His Spirit has done a lot of inner transformation in me and I have overtime taken on myself –thinking and behavior, so that I could feel not only my love for myself, but also God’s love for me. Now anytime I feel my energy is off due to tiredness or resentment or a little depression or anytime I am embarrassed by how I have treated anyone or anytime I have said the wrong thing, something that hurt or embarrassed them, I have lifted what I’ve done up and who I am to God and I have retraced my steps to apologize and to make amends.
I’m not always conscious of what I’ve done, still blind I am sure, to some of what I do and say, but I have committed to God that I will not rest in anything that would come between us. I am not perfect, that is not even my goal, but I work hard at being faithful to God in all things. Maybe if you asked the people who know me well they would still say that I am oh, so human, but I believe that God’s love accounts for “missing the mark” as well as getting it right.
When we can embrace all that we are, ”the good, the bad and the ugly” as the old movie title went, when we claim responsibility for all that we are and do, then we are taking total responsibility for ourselves. There is no longer any projecting of anger on some other group or person; there is no more “do as I say not as I do;” there is a person who is the same on the inside as he appears on the outside. This is integrity. There is no pride in having integrity because there is no need to prove oneself as better than another. There is no denying our humanity so as to appear better than we are. We stand in God’s love along with every other human being.
Here lies the truth of Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. What we earn from our labor for the kingdom is the same for everyone, no matter how late we come to the field. This is the one parable we really can’t understand in our modern times and culture. “It’s unfair!!” we cry. But the truth of the parable is that this is the way the kingdom operates: everyone is given the same wage, no matter his wealth or her education, his power or her compassion. All are equal in God’s eyes.