"For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body." Ephesians 5:29-30 CSB
If someone in your life is struggling with addiction or mental illness, it is hard on the whole family. It sneaks into our lives taking captive everything that is precious to us. It steals our peace. Anxiety takes its place. Joy is lost. Hope is replaced with a desolate spirit.
We wear out and give up. Worry about our loved one consumes us. For me, it took a toll on my body, my mind, and my emotions. I felt nauseated 24/7, and sleep was next to impossible. My thoughts were harried and unfocused, except for one thought, fixing my broken son.
Emotionally, I had a short fuse and became fearful and untrusting. My spiritual life took a huge hit. I spent my days crying out to God in desperation. "Heal my son. Rescue him!"
My self-worth was virtually non-existent. I lived with a constant feeling of shame. I put on a good show, but deep down inside I believed I was somehow to blame for my child's addiction.
Self-blame gave me a strange sense of comfort. By blaming myself, I still believed I was responsible and had a false sense that I had some kind of control in the situation. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could fix him. If I could fix him, then I would feel better about myself.
Messed up, I know.
But, What About Me?
I didn't notice how much of myself had been left scattered on the battlefield while I was trying to fix my son and my family. I was too busy fixing everyone else to pay attention to myself. I just wanted to feel better, and I would, once we were all back to normal again. If I wasn't trying to fix him, I was burying myself in my work, a place where I felt, at least for the most part, useful and capable.
All that worked for a while until I could no longer fake it. My rushing around trying to save my son and burying myself in my career became nothing more than distractions, false idols that separated me from what I really needed...
The Love of God.
With that love came the realization that He had called me to love my own body and care for it just as Christ cares for the church.
"What is man that you remember him, or the son of man that you care for him?" Hebrews 2:6 CSB
I was vehemently preaching to my son that he needed to take care of the body the Lord had blessed him with, yet I was letting anxiety and worry control mine. As I chastised him for not having enough faith to trust God with his cravings, I was unable to trust Him with my fears.
None of this is easy to admit, but desperation causes us to act crazy at times. I know it did me.
Reaching the end of my rope left me with two choices. I could either hold on to these false securities until every ounce of my strength was spent and my grasp failed. Or, I could willingly let go and cling to just one thread of my Lord's garment, believing He would reach down and grab hold of me.
Did I care enough about myself to believe I was worth saving? The enemy's lies battered me with guilt. What mother would give up on her child? How selfish could I possibly be? While I had no plans to give up on my son, I had to realize that I was trying to do God's job for him.
God didn't need my help, He needed my obedience. Instead, I was getting in His way and neglecting my health in the process.
It was then I was reminded that no one hates his own body. Really? You could have fooled me. I had forgotten about mine a long time ago. I went through the motions and looked as though I was holding it together.
It Was All Smoke and Mirrors.
Each of us comes to a crossroads at some point in our journeys where we are challenged to go it our own way or to follow faith and trust Jesus. I was at that crossroads.
It was at that point that I recognized that living life as a martyr was no life at all. I had replaced my own identity with that of my son's. It was not fair to him, and it certainly was not fair to me.
Christ calls us to live lives that honor Him. This requires that we love ourselves and care for ourselves as He cares for us. We are not to ignore spiritual sickness anymore than we are to avoid going to the doctor when our bodies suffer.
More importantly, He wants us to receive His love. As we allow Him to love us, He will instruct us on how to care for ourselves.
For me, I had always exercised and tried to follow a healthy diet. But I neglected the caring of and resting of my overhwhelmed and overworked mind. I needed my prayer time to be about pursuing my relationship with the Lord and drawing closer to him. I needed it desperately.
Yes, I could pray for my son and ask Jesus to show me how to love him well, but first I needed to be plugged into my Power Source.
By the urging of the Spirit of God, I began to start to care for myself again. I rested, I prayed, and I refueled myself in the presence of the Lord. I started to get out and hang with my family and friends. I received the Lord's love and began to see myself as he sees me. Finally!!!
"Don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 CSB
You Are Priceless.
My encouragement to you today is that you take time to look at how you are caring for yourself. Have you neglected your health? Have you forfeited your quiet time with the Lord to other less important tasks? Are you suffering mentally because of constant angst?
If so, you are a place where it is time to practice self-love (as the world calls it). I prefer to think of it as receiving the love God has for you and taking care of his temple. It's not selfish. It is embracing that you are loved by the Lord. It is letting go and allowing Christ to love you and, in doing so, learning to love yourself.
You are worth it. So worth it, in fact, that Christ paid the ultimate price for you.