Growing up in the church, it was instilled in me to love others well as we are all called to serve. I honestly loved to help; however, Jesus’ model of transforming the world around us is to love God with everything we have and then love our neighbor the way we love ourselves – something that can only be cultivated with an intimate relationship with the Father.
It is crucial to dedicate time with Him as sometimes we can become so desperate to hear His affirmations that we instead place expectations on others to meet that need. Undoubtedly, God frequently uses others as vessels to speak through, but there is never a substitution for hearing Him heart to heart. When we truly hear the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth, speak affirmations to us, it sticks like the 90s songs I still can recall verbatim from my younger years. Can you relate? I can still perfectly rap Bone Thugs-N-Harmony songs yet struggle to recall information that actually presently matters!
Jesus’ ability to recognize when He needed time with the Father allowed Him to love and give himself in a wholly, pure-hearted way. He has this characteristic about Him that I affectionately refer to as the “Father Factor.” Jesus always knew who He was and whom He was reflecting. John 5:19 states that He would observe what the Father was doing, and only from that place would He respond to the situations around Him. Likewise, if we cannot learn to affirm ourselves in Him, we cannot expect to be able to fully encourage those around us and be a catalyst of transformation. When we understand that we are as loved as Jesus is, in God’s eyes, we change. When we recognize who we truly are, we are then able to receive the love from the Father’s affirmations in the Word and in our spirits and can begin to love from a place of pure love.
When asked about the commandments in Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus appoints loving God with all of our heart, soul and mind as the greatest one, followed closely by loving our neighbor as ourselves. This question was brought up by the Pharisees, not the lost, but they lived under the law and only appeared good on the outside. By being so focused on works, they ended up missing the true spirit of the law. More often than not, we are capable of doing the same. We can surrender our lives to the work of the gospel with seemingly pure intentions, but when you truly look inward, chances are that the core motivation is far from the pure love Jesus would have modeled. Often times for me, it stems from a place of performance and seeking approval. But when a person is secure in who they are in a healthy way, it overflows into how they love others with a distinct purity.
There will be countless times when you lay your life down for others directly flowing out of obedience and purity of heart. I find great joy in surrendering my life, because I have learned to be aware of my own heart’s posture and needs. I used to spend so much of my life saying yes to everything longing for the subsequent praise of man. Now I am on a continual process of learning that my true affirmation comes from heaven alone. When I am grounded in this truth, I no longer find myself continually seeking the affirmation of others.
If you find yourself struggling along this journey of self-love, I am not saying to stop loving others altogether to focus on yourself instead. What I am saying is that as you learn to further love yourself, your love for others will naturally grow as well. You will have a front row seat to watch how your motivation is continually refined to pure love, and that is the key to seeing transformation happen!
My story is one that proves that this walk is not the easy or popular option, but if we choose otherwise, we end up settling for mere crumbs when the King’s lavish table is available instead. When we live without loving ourselves first, we end up pushing everyone else to the table while completely blind to our own chair’s existence. We are in desperate need as the Church to recognize who we are and whose we are. Only from the place of knowing we are loved by the Father can we operate in purity of power. As a direct result, we will see lives transformed for the sake of the gospel.