“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
~ John 13:34 - 35
When I think of Jesus reminding us to love others as we love ourselves, I'm left with the reality that before I can even begin to love myself, I need to like myself first.
We all seem to be working so hard at keeping up with the rest of the world, that we sometimes leave out the most important person. US!
I have watched people literally fall apart trying to do for others, while they fail to do for themselves. It is a fact that people who are caregivers will often wear out before those that they are caring for.
Each day I see people caring for others at the end of life, and for some, it takes a major toll on them. I have a man who has slowly watched his body quit working. With every decline, his wife is left doing more. Over the last five months I have watched her go from being someone who wore makeup every day, hair brushed and neat, with clean clothes on, to a woman who pulls her hair back with her hands, wearing sweats, and hasn't worn makeup in over a month. She still cooks Sunday meals for her entire family, and plans her grocery run around the time that an Aide comes to bathe and care for her husband, because she hasn't been able to allow others to help her.
She just recently told me that she is now getting injections four times a year in her back because she has strained her back, "so many times," trying to lift and move her husband.
"I do it because I love him," she shares, but then I ask, "what are you doing for yourself?"
"Oh, I will think about that later. Right now it doesn't matter."
I understand where she is coming from, and her mentality about the situation. She is a caregiver. She has now asked me to start praying for her as well when we get together.
What she does is a beautiful expression of love for her husband. I have asked her, "What will happen if something happens to you?"
"Oh, I don't know. It doesn't matter."
I stopped her and asked her to listen to herself, and instead of saying, "It" doesn't matter, insert the word, "I."
Loving one another is the greatest commandment that Jesus left with us, but what good are we to one another if we don't consider ourselves in the commandment? Each of us are worth loving, but learning to love, or like ourselves, first, means that we also have to be willing to do for ourselves what we are willing to do for others. For many, including myself, it takes a lot of practice. For some it means that you must learn how to say, "No," and for some, it is more about creating healthier boundaries.
There is a way to love one another, but it really must begin with you!
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.