A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself
It has been said many times in many circles – you can’t give away what you yourself don’t have.
How can I truly love my neighbor if I don’t first truly love myself?
Bernard of Clairvaux (AD 1090-1153), the abbot of a Cistercian monastery in France was perhaps the greatest Christian leader and writer of his day. In his great work entitle Loving God, Bernard describes four degrees of love:
Loving ourselves for our own sake
Loving God for his gifts and blessings
Loving God for himself alone
Loving ourselves for the sake of God
The highest degree of love, for Bernard, was simply that we love ourselves as God loves us – in the same degree, in the same manner, and with the very same love. We love the self that God loves, the essential image and likeness of God in us that has been damaged by sin
Quoted from Peter Scazzerro – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Day by Day page 44-45
It has been a long road for the last several months. I became ill from working 18-hour days and 70 hour weeks, and that is just my day job. That doesn’t account for the ministry hours, the time spent with family and friends, and other personal endeavors.
Workaholism is a serious ailment and is often driven by a need for validation and escape. I’ve written on the topic before so I won’t go into detail now, but clearly, a heavily imbalanced lifestyle that drives one into the hospital or a sick-bed on a not so irregular basis shows a complete lack of self-care and a critical warning that a healthy self-love is not present.
I’ve known I’ve personally had a problem with this for many years, I preach and blog about it often because it is one of the self-induced thorns that I can’t seem to give up.
On August 10, 2018, everything changed. I found myself again in the hospital, this time with internal bleeding. Gratefully that symptom proved not to be serious however once I was down, I went down hard. I spent the next 2 months in bed sleeping almost around the clock.
This time I had pushed too far
There was no cause the doctors could find for the extended recovery time needed, and believe me they tested. I likely gave gallons of blood, MRIs, CT Scans, brain scans, ultrasound… something was taking me out, but we never found anything.
Then came the diagnosis – CFS
I was happy there was a name for it and it matched everything I was experiencing, until I started to research what it is, or isn’t. It’s almost a purely shamed condition, the “I don’t want to go to work” flu.
Everyone experiences exhaustion and fatigue, and most everyone recovers with rest. I know I always have. But this time was different. The exhaustion never went away, the relentless brain fog and almost confusion with simple tasks, the hot sweats then cold chills, body aches that just come and go.
If you haven’t experienced that, you simply can’t understand it.
I’m not surprised it is shaming, you should be inside my head, the enemy loves to tell me how I’m less of a man for “giving in” to this… as if I have a choice. My Christian family tells me it’s spiritual warfare, doctors say it’s in my head, friends and family seem to imply I’m making this up and need to just “get over it”.
The doctors are telling me it doesn’t have a cure, but we know our God is bigger so I know I’m already healed and I’m just waiting to be released from this.
I am told however it can be managed. The key to living with ME/CFS is knowing our boundaries. I can no longer live in the extreme push/crash lifestyle that I have been doing for a very long time, my body and mind simply can’t take it any longer… it is forced self-care.
I’ve got to tell you, a workaholic man who gets validation from his career being pinned down in bed for months, being diagnosed with a “lazy man’s disease”, and being told there is nothing I can do about it is a freight train to crazy town, or at least it has often felt like that, and still does at times.
And even better, when you can’t use busyness to escape you are left in the desert, just you, God and your demons. What a gloriously miserable place to be, and if you’ve been there you know what I mean. A true dross-burning truth exposing experience if I’ve ever had one.
So as I’ve gained a little strength over the last month I’ve started to move around more, and on the advice that my doctor gave me the last time this happened, I went camping.
It was supposed to be just two days at a close location so my energy output would remain at a minimum; this was basically the first time I’ve been out of the house in nearly 3 months for anything significant.
We had a good time, and on day two my buddy left with his motorhome as planned. I packed up my gear and drove off behind him. But after stopping at a nearby town I believe the Holy Spirit put on my heart the desire, no, the need to go back and set up camp again and stay a while longer… He wasn’t done with me yet.
In fact, God was just getting started
I will save the details of what happened over the next 11 days and 6 separate campgrounds with just me and God. It was powerful beyond words. Most places didn’t have cell service and I had an arsenal of healing books (such as Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Scazzero, Adam’s Return – Rohr, AA – Daily Reflections), journaling materials, devotionals and of course the Bible to keep me thoroughly engaged for the entire time.
Sorry, I know this is a long buildup and if you are still with me, you must be asking by now…
…what does all this have to do with loving your neighbor as yourself?
Well, I’m excited to tell you!
In those almost 2 weeks of nearly complete solitude in what I would call the deepest communion and dependence on God that I’ve ever experienced since my conversion on January 3, 2011 (at one of the campgrounds I just revisited!), I began to experience visions in dreams and have callings and direction placed upon my heart and mind like never before.
I believe it took the months of complete rest and separation from the lifetime of busyness and weeks of nothing but communion with God before I got my first small taste of what it looks like to love God and love myself.
And in that place, His still small voice put on my heart how I could love my neighbor.
Although the Holy Spirit moments are too numerous to articulate, one of the most impactful things that happened to me over and over was I met people at nearly every campground that shared their story with me.
One was a young married couple struggling to get through their masters teaching degrees and paying $3000 per month for a tiny one bedroom outside of San Francisco in a place with paper-thin walls and rude neighbors. They are full of hope for the future and would love to move, but they can’t afford it.
Another was a French-born artist, designer, and chef with a lifetime of hardship and reliance on Christ. Her story was both painful and inspirational as she recounts how God has seen her through the best and worst of times. She now has a dream to open an Airbnb back in her hometown in France but she can’t afford it.
Another was an elderly couple – the sweetest people with the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever heard. From losing a teenage daughter to being disabled and yet having to care for their 82-year-old mother with dementia and cancer. They need medical aid but they can’t afford it.
What evolved through those very personal connections was a new ministry idea that I believe came straight from God.
I can create a new website which highlights the people, places, and things that I experience in my own healing journey and for those people and causes that could be blessed with financial support I will create and sponsor GoFundMe campaigns for them all.
And so it was born out of the ashes of my own poor choices and a relentlessly patient and loving God
Journey of Redemption – Healing JORHEALING.COM.
I got home a couple days ago from this extensive time away exhausted but in a better place. My body and mind are still worn but my soul for the first time in a long time is motived again, filled with energy from the Holy Spirit and the creative juices have been flowing. I started creating the various moving pieces of this new ministry opportunity the minute I got home.
So, I’m reaching out to you, my regular readers, and any who may stumble on this blog to please go check out my new endeavor.
It is very young and there are no donation opportunities available yet, but you can get an idea of the entire concept with the seeding of stuff I already have on there and I’d love to hear any feedback.
And if you would toss in some gratuitous likes and follows that would help too (shameless plug)
Father God, I thank you for the current illness that has forced me to my knees, forced me into solitude and silence, forced me into repentance and communion. The weakness instills concern in me Lord but please let this season do the work it needs to do above all else. I have felt you nearly laugh at me when I say “I’m all in”, responding only that I have no idea what all in looks like. I do believe Lord this is next level stuff you have placed on my heart and imagination. I would love to break my financial dependence on the overbearing workloads and stress of my existing job, but as you know fear drives me more than faith. Help us all Father to experience first hand the joy of resting at your feet more than our need to be doing dishes. Help us to love ourselves better and in that learn how you want to use us to truly love our neighbors as you would, all of them. We pray these things in the mighty and precious name of Jesus…