…And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
We are immersed in a world of fear, doubt, inadequacy. I don’t know a single person who isn’t constantly questioning themselves. “Am I good enough? Am I worthy? Do I do enough? Am I as good as so and so? Why do they seem so wonderful while I struggle?”
These are the thoughts of the ego, or the natural man…the proverbial chains that bind us. Comparing ourselves to others, or to some standard – whether real or imaginary – insures that we look at ourselves as separate, and not one…separate not only from each other, but also from God. This separation from God is the seed of what is commonly called hell. Fully indulged, it will become the metaphorical lake of fire and brimstone.
These thoughts are not:
- The peace that passeth understanding
- The Kingdom of Heaven
- What it means to…love thyself
Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes to love yourself?
- It takes faith, even confidence, that “God don’t create no junk”
- It takes great faith in the essential goodness, righteousness, love, and light of this creation of which you are a part.
- It requires letting go of the whole comparison mindset, which implies trust in the fact that you are simply good, just as you are, that you are your own I AM.
- One must learn to reconcile the ever present, often consuming desire to “become better”, with being content and at peace with one’s current state of knowledge, enlightenment, understanding…one’s current state of being or perception.
- It requires essential optimism and hope. Learning to love oneself also tends to perpetuate even greater optimism and hope.
- Loving yourself requires recognizing and gradually rejecting fear in all of its insidious and pernicious manifestations – which manifestations always begin as thoughts.
Above all, it takes trust:
- Trust in yourself
- Trust in your core beliefs and values – even in light of the fact they are, at best, incomplete.
- Trust that purity is possible, and not unachievable, as we have each been told all our lives.
- Trust that your current imperfection is, paradoxically, part of that very purity or perfection.
Yet, all of this is leading up to a sort of trump card, an overriding principle that has been revealed to me over the past year or so. I describe this as “revelation” not to lend it weight or imply any authority, but more as a description of the process, or the method by which I came to believe in this principle. If I may describe:
As the frequency, consistency, and intimacy of my interaction with Jesus has evolved, it has been made increasingly clear that about the only thing I can do to be worthy of such interaction is to believe.
- There is no worthiness test. I am already good enough, I just need to believe it.
- All that is required is sincerity, honesty, and trust
- Thoughts that promote separation (see above) dramatically interfere with such interactions, but that’s totally on me. Jesus’ love, and the grace that He extends, is infinite and unconditional. Yet, if I wish to abide intimately with Him, I must learn to reject these thoughts and beliefs.
- Jesus is not interacting with my ego…not with the natural man, with its fear and selfishness, but with the true, divine spark that is the essence of the created me.
Thus, in order for this interaction, this communion, meditation, prayer, to be a two-way communication, I must be that pure, perfect, child-like person that He knows for that time each day – trusting, believing, seeking…honest, truthful, sincere…confident, humble, at peace. His invitation is to ascend. Now, if I’m not mistaken, I just repeated, in slightly different language, the conditions described above that lead one to “love thyself”
So, for 30 to 60 minutes each day, I have been invited to “practice” interacting with this ascended being, the only requirement of which is that I learn to leave my fallen, fear-driven thoughts behind, and engage in interactions of ascendant love. It often takes 15-20 minutes to “ascend”, to lose myself in the peace and love that Jesus offers. That is His state of existence, or at least a compromise state – a middle ground. For 30-60 minutes each day, I accept His invitation to “Come unto Me”.
This communion has become a greatly cherished part of my life. It is so peaceful, so reassuring, so filled with calm, real, but never overwhelming love. This “practice” naturally manifests itself in my thoughts throughout the rest of my day, and influences even my more “worldly” interactions.
Now, the point of my revealing this to you is this – Jesus extends grace to me. He has the desire, the willingness, and especially the ability, to love me for who I am now. By accepting that grace (and not rejecting it by indulging in, even thriving on, fear-driven thoughts of guilt, judgment, unworthiness, etc), I learn to love myself – the self that He loves – even as He loves me. And I am learning to reciprocate by extending grace not only to Him but to myself. In other words, I seek to cultivate the desire, the willingness, and the ability (overcoming the natural man) to love myself as I am…now.
Now, if this is how I love myself, the next step is to love my neighbor as myself:
- To see them for their true selves, not as their fallen selves.
- To be sympathetic or empathetic to their struggles, and to invite them, through my own actions, to ascend beyond.
- To eschew judgment, or the assignment of guilt, as a result of their struggles, which are no different than my own.
- To establish that forgiveness is not needed, because there is no offense to forgive…that my love is unconditional – a product of my I AM interacting with their I AM.
- To interact with them in the same way that Jesus interacts with us
- To extend to them the same Grace that Jesus has extended to us – not out of mercy, or forgiveness, but out of love, simply because that is His nature.
I must first learn to love myself by receiving the grace offered, and then extend that same grace to my neighbor. In doing so, I learn to keep what Jesus declared to be the second greatest commandment, which is like unto the first, and on which hang all the laws and the prophets.
Something tells me that if I can do this; if I can learn to reject the invasive, fallen, even unnatural, thoughts of guilt, judgment, fear, comparison, and jealousy concerning myself, and then extend that same grace to my neighbor, not out of mercy, or forgiveness, but because that has become my nature, all else will fall into place.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed so simple.