Part Two: Love Others as You Love Yourself
I am madly in love.
Yes, with my husband of thirty years + my three adult children, but I am also madly in love with the wind + waves of the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically, the Outer Banks of NC. I know I keep talking about it, but when you love something you can’t stop talking about it, right?
If the Sand Could Talk
I sincerely believe the OBX has watched me grow up (since 1979-2014). I’ve spent countless hours walking up and down the shoreline, thinking, talking to God, and writing silent prayers in the sand. Boy, if that sand could talk— what stories it would tell.
This year, for some particular reason, proved to be quite cathartic. Perhaps it is the season of life we are in, re-nesting with only a child at home here and there. No beach house filled with children and games and boogie boards, etc. Those days were grand and I loved each and every one of them. I envision a day in the future, where I am embracing the grandparenting years, but for now, the reprise welcomes a time to catch one’s breath and gather strength for what it to come.
For me, this time away was really a time away. I went early with a singular, specific intention on spending time in the practice of solitude, all while setting a more peaceful tempo—not just for a little while, but for a life while. Initially my plans were to chisel away at an outline for yet another book project, but once I opened the pages of Gift from the Sea and Inner Compass, God led me deeper—He led me on a spiritual spiral, much like the one on my beloved Moon Shell, that led straight to the center of my soul.
Learning to Love Myself
In Mark [12:30]-31, Jesus speaks of his two most important commandments, or principles in today’s language:
30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
The first commandment is challenging, for sure, but it is the second one that leaves me completely baffled. How on earth do I love myself without becoming narcissistic or totally selfish or calloused? What did Jesus mean when he spoke these words?
Theologians have debated this subject for eons, so I wouldn’t even attempt to do so, but I did find simple answers in Gift from the Sea. Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:
“It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.”
Getting out of touch with ourselves is a widespread disease in this constantly connected culture we live in. But, as I read through Lindbergh’s classic, she obviously dealt with this—and that was over 50 years ago. Just listen:
“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls—woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”
Wow. What astounding thoughts from the wife of a worldwide celebrity, mother of five, gifted writer, and community leader herself. Somehow, in the midst of the wheel of her active life, she managed to get to know herself and then managed to find the still axis in the center of that wheel.
Hiding Under a Hat and Beach Umbrella
So, hidden under my brand new beach hat and my tried-and-true beach umbrella, I prayed for a better understanding of myself. Prayed that I might learn to love myself, with all my hangups and distorted views and lifetime baggage. Prayed that I might actually leave as many and as much of those negative behaviors behind—in a metaphorical grave I dug deep into the sand next to me.
Naked to the visible eye, but completely visible to God’s eye.
I want so much to be in touch with myself so I can effectively touch the lives of others. To know who I am, in the deepest part of my soul, so I can live this life to the fullest—unhindered by shells I was never intended to carry in the first place.
At the end of the day, when I folded up my beach chair, nestled the umbrella under my left arm once again, and headed back to the cottage, I felt so much lighter.
And, a little more in love…this time, with myself—in a healthy, Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know way.
Have you ever struggled with “loving yourself?” Will you please share your struggle with us? At least a little part of it?
From the Archives: Time for New Clothes