Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Many of us are scolding the extra pounds that were spawned from the never ending cycle of lockdowns and quarantines over the last year, especially on the eve of the July/August/Summer vacation and the resurgence of international travel. l too have found myself frantically downloading workout apps and dusting off my home exercise equipment to try to leave the pandemic without the extra pounds. The small problem is that my 30’s are not as gracious to me as my 20’s, and the unwanted pounds are more stubborn than ever.
Times like this cause me to look back at my 20’s and wonder 'what fat was I even complaining about'! In those years, I would religiously exercise because I obsessed about not gaining weight or eradicating unwanted bulges. Absolutely silly, I know! Well at least, I now know. I recall an encounter with a friend back then, who chidingly said that the Lord would be upset with me for constantly complaining about my body. I wasn’t saved at the time but I knew enough to know that there was merit in what was being said; I had slowly developed a habit of criticising God’s beautiful creation.
Self-love comes from a place of knowing who you are and much of the self-loathing that seems to pervade today’s society, has its genesis in this lack of understanding. The bible says in Genesis 1:27 that “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Who we are is not the result of a random becoming, but we are the product of intentional crafting. The mould used to create mankind was unlike any other created thing, because it was that of the most-high God. He made man and woman to resemble and identify with Himself.
This knowledge of our likeness to God is comforting to many but a vacuum of irrelevance to others because God himself is unknown or misunderstood. In Acts 17:23 the Apostle Paul was moved to explain the coming and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as saviour of the Jews and Gentiles, when he observed the inscription, “the unknown God” in the city of Athens. Sadly, God remains unknown to many even after Jesus’s declaration in John 14:9 that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”. It is understandable therefore, that while some rejoice because they know and receive that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, others struggle, and not just with their physical attributes or abilities, but with the inner man. Unfortunately, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair are consequences of a faulty view of self that originates from a lack of understanding about the Creator. Many are unable to distinguish between the perfection of God’s creation and imperfections caused by sin, such that temptation and sinful yearning are being attributed to a creation characteristic, rather than a sin effect.
I am not referring only to people whose identity confusion or self-hatred may be plainly perceived, but I also refer to persons who are unhappy with parts of themselves, including their thoughts and emotions. Consequently, destructive habits are attributed to nature and personality, without the enlightenment that God’s creation is perfect. Jesus’s nature is yours once you choose to believe in Him and sanctification is your continuous journey of becoming like Christ while you are alive. Everything Jesus did and is, we are capable of doing and being, because we are created in God’s image. “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children”. (Ephesians 5:2 NLT)
This knowledge of self and the deep love attached to it, is significant to everything that we do, everything that we are and everything that we will become. You may be one who loves and accepts yourself regardless of your quirks or the measurement of your waistline, and that’s great. Still, I challenge you to dig deep into your heart and see whether there are any areas of yourself that you try to suppress. See whether there is any skill that you hide in fear of judgement or criticism. Ask yourself whether unfulfilled desires cause you to feel less than the other person. What failed relationship or wayward child causes you to appear small in your own eyes. Listen to your own words and decipher whether they speak highly of yourself or whether you feel inclined to temper your description. The point is that we sometimes harshly and unfairly criticise ourselves, by judging our seen and unseen attributes against a standard that is not God-ordained.
We must strive to be transformed to the image of Jesus Christ and this is not something we need to or can do on our own, because God sent the Holy Spirit to help us. God sent His Holy Spirit to help us see ourselves as He sees us, to love ourselves as God loves us, to forgive our mistakes and short comings, just as God through Jesus has forgiven us.
The standard that you set for the way that you expect to be treated, is premised on the way that you treat yourself. Loving yourself fully and unconditionally is to love yourself as God loves you, because you see what He sees. A man loving his wife as himself, doing unto others as you would like them to do to you and loving your neighbour as yourself, is founded firstly on God’s love for us and then the extension of that love to ourselves and others.
I don’t expect that this is the first time that you would have heard an exposition on self-love, but there is never a bad time to be reminded about how special you are and that you are uniquely created by God, with every character and feature crafted by Him. It is always a good time to be reminded that there is a huge difference between the things you get wrong and who you were created to be. The former is a perishable nature or passing event and the other is cemented in eternity through Christ.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:29)