by Jay O'Toole
We live much of life amid unique choices. Joy is anchored in The One beyond our life.
|"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.” (Mark 12:30-31, NLT)
It has been called, "the hidden commandment." "Love yourself." Honestly, it's the hardest commandment for me to follow.
From early childhood, I saw examples of people being helped every day. "The life of a Christian is wrapped up in helping others." Yet, I, also, saw two very tired humans, my parents, who had little left at the end of the day, except to fall into bed, and to hope for enough energy to "do it all over, again, tomorrow."
"Love God" is the first and greatest commandment. He made me. He paid for my sins. He rose from the dead to make it possible for me to live forever with Him. He did this out of love. How can I not love Him?
"Love others" is the first pole of the second greatest commandment. Others were created in the Image of God. That gives them intrinsic value, making them worthy of my love.
"Love myself" is the second pole of the second greatest commandment. I have been created in the Image of God. That gives me intrinsic value, making me worthy of my love.
However, the love of anybody is predicated upon the love of myself.
If I can't love myself, then I can't love anybody else, including God.
Love Self = Love Others
The love of self has consistently meant "some sort of hopeless pride," getting in the way of the real job of all Christians in specific and Humanity in general.
"One doesn't take care of oneself. That takes time away from taking care of others." However, this is not the instruction of the flight attendant before we taxi to the runway. "If we should lose cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will fall down in front of you. Put your own mask on first, securing it into place before helping any other passengers around you."
Principle: "If we want to help others, then we must learn how to help ourselves, first."
For most of sixty years, I've run from one need to the next, helping others in my world to live as well as is humanly possible. There is a lot to commend about these activities. However, there is a great deal of my Self, I've lost along the way.
Love Self = Love Others
How much have I really loved others, if I've neglected knowing who I am?
Throughout our marriage, my wife has asked one question, repeatedly. "What makes you happy?" Most of the time I've been stumped by the question because I've never known it was important or even answerable.
Over the last few years, I've started praying a consistent prayer, "Lord, what do I like? What did you create me to enjoy? What is my purpose in life? What gives me pleasure because it gives you pleasure to see me living the life I was created to live?"
Though I'm still learning the answers to those questions, here is a montage of the beginning steps of this journey to discover the creation of the Lord,...ME. As a matter of fact, I'm learning how to love myself better in order to love others better, which includes God as the Biggest Other of my existence.
1. I've learned I love to write. I love writing more than I love sleeping, eating, and almost more than breathing.
After a number of moments of holding my breath, while writing words, so important to me, I notice my body heave one large breath because I forgot to breathe.
How many times have I looked at the clock on the top bar of my laptop, only to discover, "It's 2:00 (or 3:00) in the morning! I guess I need to go to bed."
"Man, I'm really starting to get hungry! Can't stop now! I've got to finish this poem (or this page!)"
2. I've learned I love to listen to Christmas music, around the clock, and around the calendar.
Though my detractors might counter with "Don't you get bored listening to the same 40 songs, year-round?" My response would be something like, "Well, you listen to Top 40 Country, Rock or Rap. Do you ever get tired of listening to the genre you like?"
I learn to love and to respect myself by listening to joyful music, which teaches truths about the Lord, and which reminds me of simpler times, safer times, and the most peaceful days of my childhood.
3. I've learned I love to drink coffee and tea. Some of my best alone times are spent in a coffee shop or a tea room, drinking a cup of one of my favorite flavors, while writing as fast as my fingers can type.
Some of my best times with a friend, (usually my wife,) are spent in a coffee shop or a tea room, drinking a cup of one of my favorite flavors, sharing thoughts about life or simply basking in the silence of friendship, which needs no words. If you share a cup of coffee or tea with me in silence, then it is tantamount to being the unspoken thought, "This is the deepest friendship."
There are a few other things I've learned about myself so far, but I'll stop with these three because I want to turn to the negative things about myself I'm learning to show more compassion.
If a friend were to confide in me about his struggle with an addiction to alcohol, I would be gracious and kind to him because I know that's hard to overcome. However, if I confess to myself my own failure to be early to my appointments (aka I struggle with tardiness,) then it is my tendency to browbeat myself, saying, "That's inexcusable! People judge you based on punctuality! You've got to figure out a way to be 10-15 minutes early because 'Early is on-time, on-time is late, and late is rude.'"
I'm still not perfect in this regard, and I'm sure some people put a black mark against my name when I am late, but I'm learning how to let up on myself, regarding the hypercritical voices of my childhood. Knowing my penchant for tardiness, I've learned to schedule something fun, like getting a cup of coffee about 30-45 minutes before some majorly important meeting. When I'm already moving and in the vicinity, it's a lot easier to meet an obligation than trying to leave from something stationary, like home in "just enough time to get there."
One of the biggest negatives I've had to overcome in my life is in the area of sharing my faith. I'm sure the preachers of my youth would be tempted to accuse me of not sharing my faith, clearly, nor as often as it needs to be shared. "People are going to Hell, and you're trying to be sweet!" This is one kind of voice still dancing in my head from all those revival services and camp meetings of my youth. I still believe Truth is absolute, but not everybody does. I'd like to hope my approach cherishes relationships, giving me the opportunity to tell more about why I believe what I believe when the heart of another is open to hearing the message I bring.
On the other hand, people of other faiths and those, who do not believe in God at all, have often accused me of sharing my faith too much, crossing the boundaries of their privacy. "Not everyone believes the way you do!" WOW! Isn't that the truth!
There have been multiple occasions on other websites in which I've been involved in heated discussions, trying to diffuse the situations as much as was humanly possible, while at the same time trying to be honorable, not diluting the truth I've come to trust with all my heart. Some of these events involved atheists, who in all honesty were just as evangelistic in trying to train me NOT to talk about my belief as they were accusing me of being evangelistic, regarding that which was (and is) near and dear to my heart.
Love Self = Love Others
Learning to love myself has included permission to express my thoughts and beliefs in a public forum in an honest way, clear and forthright, but not pushy. I have learned to say, "This is what I believe. You are free to accept my beliefs or not. I am just as valuable as you are. These are my thoughts. Thank you for listening. Have a good day."
That being said, I would like to offer the reader some thoughts of my heart for your consideration.
I am a Christian.
However, I am not a Catholic. This means I do not take my marching orders from the Vatican in Rome.
As a Christian, I believe I have more in common with the Anabaptists, Moravians, and cave-dwellers of the Dark Ages than with most of the established Christian denominations of today, both of the Catholic and Protestant persuasions.
I am a believer in the Messiah of the nation of Israel. As such, I believe Jesus of Nazareth to be more than simply a good rabbi. I have come to believe He is in fact, Messiah (aka Christ, the Chosen One.)
As a believer in Yeshua, Messiah of Israel, I don't sware allegiance to any denomination's Doctrinal Statement, simply because it is the certified Doctrinal Statement of that particular denomination. I believe in thinking about every statement, certifying it by the truth of Scripture, the very words of the Bible.
Since I received this deep faith as a six-year-old boy, I have had one policy throughout life, "If it agrees with The Holy Bible, then I will believe it. If it does not agree with The Holy Bible, then I will not believe it." Every belief comes under scrutiny in my heart. These include my own beliefs, the beliefs of those nearest and dearest to me, the beliefs of teachers throughout my life, and the beliefs of acquaintances I have simply met through the internet.
I have come to believe it is folly to believe without thinking.
Likewise, I have come to believe it is folly to think without admitting to belief.
One can believe without thinking, but it is impossible to think without believing.
It is true I came to be a believer in Jesus Christ as a small child before I had figured out much of the life I have lived these 50+ years, since becoming a Christian. However, everything I have studied throughout my life has proven to me, that belief in Jesus, the Christ is the most scientifically-rational belief in all of History. There are way too many razor-edged issues, regarding the existence of life on Earth, that cannot be rationally explained any other way than that Jesus is the Creator. (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1)
Belief in The Big Bang billions of years ago is not rational since the momentum of that first great explosion would have run its course long before now, dying down to stillness, meaning life on Earth would no longer exist. However, the belief that Jesus unfolded the universe like a shower curtain less than 10,000 years ago is plausible, since the momentum of such an action would not have had time to die out yet, especially considering the fact, Jesus is still pulling the curtain to its ultimate length.
Though many would argue, that the Earth appears to be billions of years old as confirmed by radioactive dating of rocks and strata, the rationale for the belief in the young Earth is found in Genesis 1 & 2. I have never questioned the creation of Adam and Eve at the hands and the breath of the Lord Jesus. Let us explore this for a moment. It is rational to believe, that Adam's creation was not the creation of an infant, needing to grow to adulthood, especially since I cannot believe that God changed the diapers of an infant Adam in the absence of any other humans. Therefore, I am convinced, that Adam appeared to be anywhere from 13 years (the age of the Jewish bar mitzvah) to 30 years (the age at which a Jewish man could become a rabbi.) It stands to reason if Adam required apparent age at the very first moment of his existence, then Earth would, no doubt, have needed to function in a state of apparent age from its beginning as well.
Finally, let us consider the argument for the functionality of the Universe without the actions of God as well as with the actions of God or of multiple gods.
The Second Law of Thermo-Dynamics negates the plausibility of momentum keeping our physical existence going over billions of years in the absence of God.
Multiple gods of equal or similar strength and quasi-magical powers would negate the existence of life on Earth for at least half a dozen major reasons. (I'll share three, for now, to prevent being tedious.) It stands to reason gods would be no better than humans, regarding the desire for mastery and the tug-of-war, which would ensue. For instance,...
1. The tilt of the Earth at the median of 23.5 degrees off perpendicular, wobbles between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees, creating extremes in temperatures and climates. Argument and struggle over this window of existence would cause all life on Earth to cease.
2. The speed of the Earth's spin on its axis is required for days of lightness and darkness to keep the temperature of the Earth's surface consistent and the flows of the oceans and the air currents within normal parameters, making it possible for the sustenance of life on Earth. Changes in this speed could have deleterious effects on life, especially if the speed of rotation increased or decreased due to the struggles of gods.
3. The speed of the Earth's journey around the sun creates the seasons. Life on Earth would cease to exist if the journey around the sun became slower or faster or in some other way, inconsistent, due to the struggles of gods over that speed.
Rationally, this means that One and Only One God is necessary for the maintenance of life on Earth, regarding everything science knows about life on Earth as well as a lot it still doesn't know.
Now, I have properly loved myself by boldly telling the world what I believe about the triune GOD and how He interacts with the world He made. Since I love myself this much, I am now able to love others, including The Lord God Himself.
Word Count: 2474
by Jay O'Toole
on February 20th, 2020