I’ve spent most of my life hating myself. Hating my body. Hating that my hair is curly instead of a cascading hairfall, a shimmering bluish-black silk like Antonio Banderas’ that glistens in the moonlight. My brain has a disease that impact my mind; only having been diagnosed with bipolar a little over a year ago, I’m still figuring out what I am like on meds. What is of the disorder? What is of me? From what source does this hatred spew? Is there a pill for that?
Only since I became serious about my relationship with Jesus Christ did I begin to understand that self-love is absolutely necessary. For me, I couldn’t begin in self love. I had to begin in a love of family–particularly my brother–and of friends–I am blessed to have at least 20 people I would consider dear, dear friends; only then could I discover how to love God. I love God because it is as natural as loving love. I love God without expecting anything. To be sure, I feel that much comes as a result of being in a relationship with God, but that’s not why I have love. It is almost a disinterested love, one that occurs like oxygen fills lungs or blood that flows through veins.
Learning how to love my schizophrenic brother without needing anything in return taught me how to love God. Living into that love through the person of Christ Jesus has allowed me to understand that my own incarnation is a blessed, miraculous experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have bipolar disorder. I travel to lows that I would not wish on anyone, but even in the deepest darkness, the conviction that we are created in the image of God helps me to believe that my ugly brokenness, my damage that causes damage, my imperfect love that sometimes is not enough, that all of these are part of God. And I get to be me. Me.
With this me, I clothe myself in Christ. I seek to be as God intends. A servant. A son. A husband. A friend. A sinner. A teacher. A pastor. A person of fear. A reader. A laugher. A musician.
A disciple of Jesus. A lover of people. An admiter of faults.
So how am I getting to a place in which I can love myself? I’ve developed a code: Be honest. Accept responsibility for your errors. Do not be afraid to speak because it is dangerous. Smile often. Forgive easily when you can; refuse to have your forgiveness taken for granted. Give compliments. Listen to people’s pain without making it about you. Offer kindness whenever possible, but do not shy away from the stern word. Eat pizza. Take naps. Sing without reservations. Where there is no music, make some.
And above all else, love.
“Love what?” they will ask.
To which you whisper, “Yes.”