Self Love

Oct 25, 2021

The week before my last chemo treatment for breast cancer, my husband, Ryan, and I went out on a much needed date day.

It had been months since we went somewhere together that didn’t involve a hospital, infusion center, doctor’s office, or good ole’ Costco.

My in-laws took our boys, and we drove down our South Carolina Island to a golf club bar overlooking the ocean. The skies were blue, the Spring sun was warm, and the salt in the air reminded us of how good it was to take these breaks in the middle of the grind and trials of life.

As we walked by the water and then rocked our chairs on the wrap around porch, waiting for our table to be called, I thought to myself: “Aahhh….we deserve this day. We TOTALLY deserve this. I’m ordering an appetizer and a steak salad and staying here as long as I want!”

Now listen. If anyone gets to say those words, it’s a cancer patient, am I right?

Over the course of those past six months, I had endured a mammogram, biopsy, 2 surgeries, 3 scans, 1 port placement, and 8 chemo infusions. Then I still had 28 rounds of radiation, a port removal, reconstruction surgery, and 10 years of hormone suppression that will force my 34-year-old body into a permanent menopause in hopes to suppress any remaining cancer cells we didn’t catch with all of the above. Not to mention the dozens of doctor appointments, thousands of dollars in medical bills, countless sleepless nights, drug side effects, body changes, handfuls of pills and supplements, radical diet changes, and the ever, present fears and anxieties of the unknowns that plague a cancer patient’s mind.

Our last date had happened over 7 months ago. So uh-huh, yup…of course we “deserved” this! But as I sat there rocking in the sunshine, some thoughts came to my mind about my attitude and choice of words.

If we think back through ancient time, to every rise and fall of great empires and civilizations, we can see how humans have proven to be quite the predictable creatures. Our habits, cultures, and values ​​may differ from time and place, but we have certain particular traits ingrained within us regardless of where or when we were born.

We were all created in the image of a unique and perfect God, which is why we find ourselves with this deep desire to one day reach a higher level of self-improvement. From the beginning, we want to “BE LIKE GOD.”

It’s the tiny detail in this story that got us into this sinful mess to begin with.

Then, after our failed attempt in the garden, we tried to build a tower that would reach the heavens. From the ancient pharaohs who built majestic pyramids, to the neighbor down the road fertilizing his lawn, we continue to strive and work hard for our own personal fulfillment. We sacrifice at all costs to become better versions of ourselves.

Yet our attempts fail over and over again, and we continue to fall short. And today, it’s not the Tower of Babel or the forbidden fruit that draws our attentions to success; it’s the elevation of self-love.

It’s something that’s really caught my attention recently being that it’s everywhere – from books to songs to merchandise in stores: “More self-love”, “Be authentic”, “Follow your heart” and “You be you, Boo.” Not to mention the thousands of “selfies” shared through social media. We’ve been dubbed the “selfie” generation, as the pictures flooding our phones become increasingly self-centered and masterfully edited to bring forth our best versions. We’re encouraged to workout, do yoga, take a bath, and do what makes us feel good. Our libraries are full of books on self-improvement and blogs about “Seven Easy Steps to Becoming a Better You.”

We’ve become a society that values ​​authenticity and individuality to the point that we’re ALL striving to be that “rare and unique person” who exudes confident self-awareness.

Today, you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, whether it’s career, hobbies, religion, political opinions, gender orientation or moral beliefs.

Everything is permissible if it makes you happy.

And this trend towards authenticity and self-love has been a great thing in so many ways! We’re examining ourselves more closely and learning how to handle our triggers and stress. We’re filling our own cups first and know not to feel guilty about it. Our inner focus helps us become more aware of the beauty and uniqueness inside us, as well as the areas that need improvement. And honestly, I love the selfies I take or the ones shared by friends who I miss seeing more often! There’s a lot about this self-love culture we can use for good. And self-care IS so very important. Jesus himself took time during his ministry on Earth to get away from crowds, rest, spend time with his closest friends, and talk with his heavenly Father.

Mark 12: 30-31 says: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

We tend to read that passage and focus on the command to love God and others. But we generally miss the part where God reminds us about another love: The way we already love ourselves, in a manner so deep and profound that it’s used as the standard. It’s a love that’s been programmed into us, and it’s the love that God used as a benchmark to measure our love for others. He knows we already love ourselves and wants us to love others in the same way.

Now – it is possible some of us may have past traumas or unhealthy ways of showing that self-love, but the fact and the matter is, most of us usually DON’T need more encouragement to love ourselves more; at least not in the selfish ways our world encourages us to pursue it.

I have 4 young children, and in my 9+ years of being a mom, I’ve come to realize that not once have I ever had to teach my kids to put themselves first. They already do it and they always have, from the second they took their first breath, demanding to be fed, held, and warmed. Just watching the interactions between my 3- and 5-year-old is a clear reminder that selflessness is something that does not come naturally to us. And yet, the enemy has found yet another way to convince us that what’s really missing in our lives is more self-love.

Yes, Jesus practiced self-love. He took a nap during a storm when they needed him the most. He left his disciples and crowds to go rest and recharge. But there’s a vast difference between the act of seeking personal success and fulfillment and the act of directing your mind and heart towards your Source of Life. This is when our fallen nature strays away from its original design. In our search for perfection, we, the created deny our need for our Creator, and we begin to compromise our morals and ethical standards in the name of individuality and self-love.

But the Kingdom of God works the other way around. If we want to be original individuals with strong hearts and minds, our focus should not be on our own self-improvement efforts. Jesus has called us to empty ourselves before Him so that His Spirit may take shape within us. When we turn to Christ as our source of fulfillment, we receive an endless source of life that can’t be shaken or emptied by the things of this world. As we become less, he becomes more within us, and we begin to understand that our ambitions and self-care routines are much greater than our own personal self-fulfillment. And step by step, our perception changes.

We rest our bodies because we’re vessels and instruments of the living God who has called us to be salt and light in this world.

We improve our marriage because we’re the reflection of Christ and his church.

We love and forgive others, not because it makes us feel better, but because we’re acting in obedience.

We learn a new language, play a musical instrument, read a good book, enjoy a hobby; we set a goal and conquer a challenge – everything – because we long to bring glory to God. Our day-to-day actions don’t change much, but our perspective is radically transformed into one of surrender. Our calling is higher than our personal best. We’re no longer walking and breathing on this Earth to become great and competent humans or better versions of ourselves. We’re here, full of hope and life, for the pleasure and joy of a loving God who longs to bring us to completion through Him and Him alone; and He does so by emptying us and all that we consider to bring us fulfillment. Only then can His Spirit fill us to the point of overflowing; and overflowing is what brings hope to a world so wounded and consumed with itself that it lacks the certainty of an eternity with Him.

So next time I find myself thinking of how much I deserve goodness to come my way, I’m determined to take those thoughts of self-entitlement and turn them instead into thoughts of gratitude.

I still got the appetizer and steak.

And we’re definitely gonna plan these date days more often! Those things won’t change; it’s my posture that will.

Because there’s an ever-increasing satisfaction in life when you realize something beautiful you’ve experienced is not because you’re entitled to it, but instead because it’s a gift. My hands are empty. Nothing is truly mine, and sometimes it takes a walk in the sand to remind me that a posture of gratitude is always better than one of entitlement.

So then – as the world encourages us to say “I deserve it! Put me first!” we, who live in a kingdom that is not of this world surrender ourselves before the Servant who renounced His position at the right side of the living God. He emptied himself, assumed a weak and limited human form, all because of you and me.

There really is no greater love than this.

Hi! I’m Amy…

I am a stay-at-home mom with a passion for books, baking, gardening and homeschooling. My calling to write stems from the desire to share the depths and vastness of grief and suffering, and how to point it back towards an eternal perspective through Jesus. Called to live full and grace filled lives, I hope to acknowledge pain, inspire joy through brokenness and find purpose in the beauty, the ugly and the mundane of parenting day to day. 

My husband, Ryan, and I live in Charleston, SC with our 4 busy boys, 2 dogs and constant influx of tadpoles, frogs, crayfish and lizards.