PRAYER BUILDS SELF-LOVE
The self has not been treated fairly. I am as guilty as everyone else that uses Paul’s negative description of men and women. Of course, Paul used that approach to make his listeners aware of their need for a Savior. Nevertheless, I have stepped on myself way too much, and I believe devalued myself in the eyes of our Maker. I have come to the conviction that it is an insult to God, that is if I continue to tell Him that I am nothing. For, if I am nothing, why then did God sent His Son to save me? So, I want to know, who I really am and what the “One” who came to save me thinks of me? Now, my prayer is, not on how to be a better person, but on how to have a better view of myself. How do I see myself?
The “self” is a composition of body, mind and soul or spirit. When things happen, the body takes most of the beating. I know this because I have been in an accident and do not particularly like to look at my physic. It is also unfortunate, that we do not take better care of our body, and as a result our personality loses self-respect. The mind and the soul depend on the body to function and they are also to be blamed for allowing the body to do their thinking for them. When we let desire and feelings dull our senses, we lose control of our self and leave behind a path of misery others have to travel on. In steps the preacher, just as I did, and announces that Jesus can cover our sins and we shall be forgiven. The sobering truth is this, if we continue to degrade ourselves by persisting in sin, Jesus cannot save us. He only saves those that stop sinning (Rev. 22:11). There is no good news for those who refuse to believe, that with Christ’s help, they can change.
I the little me, I am overwhelmed by God’s “Grace” and “Love.” Only, Jesus does not regard me as little, but as a precious pearl or treasure. Jesus’ Parable of, “the hidden treasure and the Pearl” are about me (Mt. 13:44-46). He is that merchant that left His Father’s world to dig me up and then went and bought me with His own sacrifice. He traded His life for mine. It is He who warned me not to throw my life before pigs and have them trample on me and destroy the reason why my Lord laid down His life for me. And when I allow the world to have any part of me, I give what is holy to God to the dogs (Mt. 7:6). Jesus also tells me that I am worth more than the planet and that no one in this world is rich enough to buy or replace my life (Mk. 8:36). My Lord regards me as being similar to gods (Jn. 10:34-35). Not even a hair can fall off my head without Him being aware of it (Lk. 21:18).
The Creator Lord did not make me into a robot. He gave me a will so that I can push my own buttons and decide where I want to go. I am fully capable of choosing between what is good for me and what is not not good (Gen. 3:22). I do make mistakes and let my body’s desire and feelings override my mind. I have been very fortunate that my body, which has taken heavy hits but has not put my mind out of commission. I have had to rebuild my body and my mind and I was able to come back to Christ, my Savior. I never was an unbeliever in Christ; nevertheless, I was one that did not confess Him. One day, an accident rendered my body nearly useless, I found myself lost in the world. People, similar to Matthew 25:34-40, came to me and assured me that Jesus had a place for me where I could become useful. Have any of you have any idea what it feels like when you are not allowed to look into a mirror for months to see what you looked like, but you could read it in the faces of those who knew you? Even after I was sent to a rehabilitation place, a stranger in a language I understand said to his companion, “That German is good for nothing.”
He was absolutely correct. In some countries they would have let me die; but, God had led me to Canada were all life, no matter in what condition, was worth saving. The people that surrounded me were lifesavers. Even those that were not Christians had more faith in me, than I had in myself. Those that were the most helpful began to challenge me by putting obstacles in my way. They questioned my choice of becoming a pastor and rightly so, because at that time, I only had a grade seven education and hardly any English. Once I had accepted the challenge, I was determined to prove my skeptics wrong. Within nine years, I went through High School, College and two Seminaries and earned two postgraduate University degrees. I applied to the University of New York for a program after I had been there a year. They refused to give me foreign student status and made me take an American pop cultural test. Of course I failed it, because I was not familiar with Yankee Doodle. I went back to Toronto and earned my Doctorate. Why am I sharing this? It is because I am a disabled person. I went from nobody to somebody because I was led to believe that Jesus, the Christ, needed and wanted me to be one of His servants. At that time, the world wanted me to sit on a chair in an elevator and push buttons with a pencil because my fingers could not touch buttons. Guess what happened to elevator operators?
The Christian journey of faith is similar to my own. It needs a challenge. Without obstacles and hardships, we become soft and almost useless. The people, who are set on making it easy for us, do not bring out the best in us. We do not really know what is in us until we are tested. Especially friends or people, who love us blindly, cannot see the potential in us. In my life, critics have demonstrated more love than my friends. One member of the examining committee rejected my third thesis for my fourth academic degree, because I had offered one hundred fifty expert’s views instead of my own. This examiner believed that there was more within me than merely agreeing with others and that I would some day be heard. He was right and I did produce a work with out the experts. He did not agree with it; nevertheless, he was impressed with the work I had done. He instilled self-confidence in me and I had to face the test if, I wanted to pass. The writer to the Hebrews had similar things in mind for the Christian pilgrim. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son’” (Prov. 3:11-12). And again, “Endure hardships as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respect them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our own good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by discipline. ‘Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed’” (Heb. 12:4-13).
The writer to the Hebrews loved his people very much and his emphasis on discipline proves it. I can identify with his idea of discipline because I, too, regarded my accident as a punishment when in reality God was saving me from losing my soul. It was because of my disability, that I clearly saw where I belonged in service in this world. Jesus, the Christ, had by far the best offer for me. There was one more idea that I did not understand and that was the meaning of true love for and of myself. Physically, I had no reason not to love myself. On the evening of the accident when I became a torch, I cried out loud in German, “I am lost,” “I am lost,” before I became unconscious. Nobody understood why I cried out. I did, but not for my body, but for my soul. When I was twelve and drowning, I had a similar experience. I had nine years to learn to love my soul and did not. I had loved everything else, but not the most important thing in the world; namely, my own soul. The gracious Lord God gave me a second chance so that I could learn to love my soul. The commandment to love myself took on new meaning. It was no longer about the physical, but the heart, the soul and the mind. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second one is just as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-38). Why love the neighbor or some stranger victimized by bandits? It is not what they possess physically, but what we share eternally – “souls” who belong to the “Breath of God.” Samuel was sent to Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint the next king over Israel. Seven physical specimen stood before the prophet and the Lord whispered to him, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). Prayer has helped me to learn to love myself and because of it, I love others even more than myself.