“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”- Romans 12:2 NLT
If someone were to stick an antenna to my head to create a radio station, that would be a bad idea.
Because it is a big box of crazy in there.
Right now, the show would sound like this...
“Okay, Kate. Put some words on the page. It’s time. Words. Upwords. Isn’t that a game? Don’t get distracted...I think I like club soda.
Club soda, grapefruit. Grapefruit, bananas, big monkey. Big monkey wearing socks. Thirteen socks in the laundry today. Only eight were matching. Where did all those socks go? Perhaps this is proof of a spirit realm? Socks, Sox, baseball games, baseball games with Dad...
Kate, earth to Kate! Time to write….
Ground control to Major Tom…
For most of my life, there was a lot of drama, a smattering of ego, and glimpses of beautiful in that important piece of real estate called my mind. But one thing was certain. It was not often peaceful there.
That internal neighborhood did not always feel like a safe place to live. There was too much hostility to feel secure. Pieces of myself were often battling other pieces of myself. In fact, most of my selves had quite dysfunctional relationships with each other. One part of me was frequently bullying another part of me about my choices or my failed relationships or my thighs. Always the thighs.
With all the drama, it felt more like a Mexican soap opera than a place that I would like to sit and have a cup of tea.
But in this last season of my life, God has take me on an internal journey. The destination of that journey was for my mind to be at home with itself.
In his great love for me, he didn’t want me to continue being so unkind to myself. He wanted to heal my negative self talk. He wanted me to become a compassionate observer of my inner landscape so that hand in hand, we could make that landscape a more beautiful place.
A turning point came on this journey when I was in the mountains of Julian, CA. on a silent retreat. I was reading Breanan Manning’s book Abba’s Child when I came to this sentence:
“What if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself- that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness- that I myself am the enemy that must be loved- what then?”
My soul rattled inside of me. I breathed in and out slowly for a few moments, and then I began to cry. I asked God to cradle me, and I hugged my arms to myself. I sat in that position weeping for a good twenty minutes.
I was the beggar in need of my own alms, the enemy that I needed to learn to love.
I realized that from the time that I was young, I had an extreme sense of self doubt. An uncertainty that I was really worthy of love.
I realized that I had almost always seen the good in people. I had spent a large portion of my life writing songs and books and teaching seminars about how valuable people are. I had volunteered for years with homeless people and at risk youth, always with the message that they are beautiful no matter what the world tells them.
What I realized that day, surrounded by the mountains, my arms wrapped around my knees, is that the only person in my life that I don’t always see as valuable or beautiful, the only person that I am often unkind to is me.
I had a bad case of inside-itis. That strange disease that makes me feel like everyone in the world is worthy of love and belonging…except me. That illness that makes me think that everything in nature is lovely, that people are gorgeous and colorful and amazing even if they aren’t traditionally “beautiful,”…except me. That ailment that makes me a really good friend to other people, granting all kinds of compassion and grace to the people on the outside, but seldom turning that kindness on myself.
Later that day, I came across a verse that I had read dozens of times before. But this time, through the eyes of self compassion, I read it differently.
“One of them, an expert in the Law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV.)
That’s when I saw it: Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, not more than yourself.
I was stunned. With this new way of looking at the verse, I realized I was not obeying this command the way I thought I was.
I had two thirds of the command down. I had followed Jesus’ teaching to love God with all my heart. My love for God was my lifeline. I had worshipped and churched and listened and prayed and memorized and hiked and retreated and loved.
I had also followed Jesus’ command to love my neighbor. Loving my friends and family and people in need had been one of the core values of my life. I had volunteered and forgiven and cooked and taught and served and charitied and sang and written and given and given and given.
But what kind of history did I have with loving myself? That list was very different. I had screen timed and regretted and worried and overeaten and undereaten and ran ragged and looked on as unattractive and unworthy. These actions did not indicate love. They indicated an attempt to anesthetize a deep seated sense of shame.
Perhaps I inwardly believed this was how it was supposed to be. In my twisted way, I thought that’s what it meant to be humble.
And yet, right here in the Golden Rule, Jesus asked me to love myself. Just as much as I loved my neighbor. My habit of not loving myself was actually going against what God had commanded me to do.
In pondering this, I realized the brilliance of Jesus’ words. There is a triangulating relationship between God and neighbor and self. The more I learn to love God, the more I learn to love my neighbor and myself. The more I love myself, the more I love my neighbor and my God.
It is a sacred balancing act.
I started thinking about the fact that people will come and go in my life. Seasons will turn. Circumstances will change. But no matter where I go, no matter what I do, the two constants presences in my life will be God’s presence, and the presence of my own self. I have to live with myself. That will never change until the day I die. What kind of a relationship do I have with this person that I am required to be with every second of every day, I wondered.
Perhaps I could reach deep inside of myself and instead of finding an enemy in the deepest place, finding a friend. Someone who dwells close to the heart of God. A person with whom I enjoy company.
Together, God and I are making the landscape of my mind a place that I enjoy living in. I have truly come to have a mind at home with itself.
What about you? Do you often find yourself not being as kind as you would be to a friend? How can God heal the part of us that struggles to love ourselves?
Kate Hurley is a singer songwriter, life coach, and writer based in Asheville North Carolina. She has written two books: Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life and the upcoming Prodigal Mind: Change Your Story One Thought at a Time. You can learn more about her at katehurley.com and read more of her writing and restoreyourstory.online.