Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekly Writes (RnR): Self Love

My "want to read" list is a mile long. I doubt I have enough years on this earth to read every book on it. Especially if I read a book at the pace I'm reading Milton Vincents A Gospel Primer. It's not very long (less than 100 pages), but boy is it ever thick! Vincent explains how to make the gospel the central focus of your life and then he goes into detail with 31 reasons why making the gospel his obsession has forever changed his life. I'm only on number 17: Liberation from Self-Love.

I couldn't NOT talk about this one. (Ignore the double negative.)

Americans are taught to love yourself first. I grew up believing in that statement and then I'd look in the mirror and hate the pimples on my face, the blackheads on my nose, the widows peak in my hair line, my crooked pinkies, bubble butt, sprinter thighs, small breasts, and thin, stringy hair. I'd look in Victoria Secret magazines and try to work hard enough to have long skinny legs and a flat tummy. I'd also try every product on the market to get rid of the pimples that keep showing up and try any hoopla "boob" miracle grower. None of it works. So the "self love" turns into "self hate" and leads to mild depression. However, if I bask in the gospel message, I can look in the mirror and see Jesus face to face and know that no one is going to love me better than He does. My body image becomes less of a problem because it is temporary and God's love is steadfast, unchanging, and eternal. My body will age, become wrinkly, gray, sag, and fall apart. God's love will not.

This is not a new perspective on "self love." Milton Vincent put the bug in my ear when I read number 17: "Liberation from Self-Love." I saw the title and thought, liberation, huh? You mean I need to free myself from this self-love crap that the world is feeding me? The way Vincent explains the reason why, blew my socks off.

"Compared to greater endeavors, self-love is mundane and tiresome. Consequently, the more thoroughly I can be done with such tedium, the freer my soul will be to soar at its God-intended heights.

One of the leading causes of my natural tendency to self-love is fear. I fear that if I do not love myself there would be no one left to love me quite so well as I do. An even more significant cause of self-love is a lack of persuasion that there is someone out there who is worthy to be loved more than I. Arrogance lies underneath both of these causes: I love myself supremely because I am the most worthy person I know to be loved and also because I think I can do a better job at it than anyone else. Such arrogance makes me dangerous (2 Timothy 3), yet it is deeply ingrained in my sinful flesh.

Thankfully, the gospel frees me from the shackles of self-love by addressing both of these causes. First, the gospel assures me that the love of God is infinitely superior to any love that I could ever give to myself. "Greater love has no one than this," says Jesus while speaking of His love (John 15:13). And the deeper I go into the gospel, the more I experience the truth of His claim and thereby know how far His love for me surpasses even my own (Romans 8:32). His astonishing love for me renders self-absorption moot and frees me up to move on to causes and interests far greater than myself (2 Corinthians 5).

Second, the gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God's glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can no longer compete for my affections.

Preaching the gospel to myself every day reminds me of God's astounding love for me and also of His infinite worthiness to be loved by me above all else. These reminders deliver a one-two punch to my innate self-absorption and leave me increasingly absorbed with Christ (Philippians 3) and with God's ultimate plan to gather together all heavenly and earthly things in Him." (p. 29-31)

Yes, I quoted Vincent's entire section on "Liberation from Self-Love" because I cannot sum it up in a way more beautifully than it's already explained. We live in a society that tends to focus on loving ourself above all else leaving us guilty of arrogance, self-hate, and leaving us feeling unloved.
When in fact, if we as Christians focus on the love that God has given His children, then nothing else matters in this world. Once we abandon ourselves and turn to face Christ, everything else begins to make sense and we can love the life He has given us and rest in the hope of an eternity with Him. Vincent says it perfectly, "... the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can no longer compete for my affections." (p. 30-31)Nothing but God's love in the face of Jesus Christ matters. Not even our image. Our bodies will eventually turn to dust and be destroyed along with the earth. So why do I spend so much time worrying about it?! It reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis,
In order to be liberated from self-love I must stop focusing on my body and focus on my soul instead. That also means that I must revel in the gospel message because it is in that alone that my soul is saved.

Vincent describes self-love as mundane, tiresome, a tedium, arrogance, and dangerous. I think it's because if we focus on loving our self first than we lose sight of the love God has for us. Once we abandon our self, we can give God the glory for saving a wretched soul, living in an imperfect body. By abandoning self-love we can more clearly see God's love. So let go and Let God love you because you can't love you as well as He can love you.

I need that reminder every day, especially when I look in the mirror, which is why I made this... .
... because who should I see when I look in the mirror? Christ alone.