For most of my life my priorities looked something like this: God first, others second (“others” is a looong list), and myself last. To have it any other way felt selfish and unchristian. But my noble attempt to live like Jesus turned into an unholy, self-loathing God never intended. He’s teaching me a better way.
“Momma, are you mad?”
My priorities were all wrong and as I look back over the last two decades I can see what’s it’s cost me. At times, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and frustration were brewing just below the surface of my inner life. I was sure I was hiding it well. I was wrong.
“Momma, are you mad?” I’ve been asked that question a few times throughout my mothering years. It pains me now to remember . . .
“What makes you think I’m mad?” I would say, slightly irritated by the question.
“You just look like you’re mad.”
“Well, I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” I’d respond in my you-don’t-have-a-clue-how-hard-it-is-to-be-an-adult tone.
Somehow I felt justified to look mad or worried or tired or whatever negative emotion I was feeling.
I want to be careful not to oversimplify the issue here. There are times when we are grieving or experiencing emotional or physical pain and our face shows it. That’s okay. And it’s okay to share appropriately with our children or close friends how or why we’re hurting.
But what I’m really addressing here is the long face we’re in the habit of wearing around those closest to us primarily because we are not loving ourselves as we should.
We’re quick to accuse others of taking advantage of us or not helping enough or not realizing how hard our life is; but, oftentimes we’re really angry at ourselves and shifting blame to others.
That way of living is anything but the abundant life.
It’s Not Selfish to Take Care of Yourself
I want to share two specific ways God has intimately revealed how much He loves me as His beloved child.
- I was standing in a worship service praying specifically for two friends. As I was praying, I visualized myself walking toward Jesus with these two friends on either side of me. As we approached Jesus, I pressed them toward Him and I took a step back. Immediately, Jesus reached past them and took hold of me and embraced me. He spoke to me, “I love you, too, Stacy. I care about you and your life. You are precious to me.” I began to weep. I really wanted to sob out loud in church. Gasp. (When was the last time you heard anyone sob out loud in church? I remember a story about woman who wept bitterly. The priest accused her of being drunk. I Samuel 1) I restrained my weeping and He continued to speak to me about my need to pray for myself. To be open about what I’m feeling. To ask for what I need and want. To love myself because He loves me so much.
- I was in a room where several small groups of people had gathered to pray. I first heard my name spoken aloud in the group I was in and then several more times in the small groups that were near me. The groups were all praying at once and to most it probably sounded like unintelligible mumbling. But I believe the Lord allowed me to hear my name being spoken to Him in prayer to calm my anxious heart about a need in my life. I felt His peace and comfort and Him saying, “I love you. I’m holding you and I’ll give you what you need.”
During this season of my life, He is teaching me the importance of self-care and how to rearrange my priorities in a God honoring way that leads to the abundant life He offers. God loves you as His beloved son or daughter and I believe He wants me to share with you what I’ve learned and trust that you will apply it appropriately to the season you’re in.
We’re all familiar with the instruction to “put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others” (even your own child!). That’s a life or death decision at 39,000 feet and not at all selfish. If you’re incapacitated you’ll certainly be no help to anyone around you.
The same is true in life.
So I’ve been putting myself first. Yep. You read that correctly. ME, FIRST!
With God’s help, I’m learning what it means to live and love and work the way Jesus did to the glory of God.
Tomorrow I’ll share more about why I made the decision to put myself first and why I think you should, too.
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