Today is Valentine’s Day. For some, Valentine’s Day is a special day. It is a day to celebrate love, receive gifts, or be pampered. For others, it is a day that represents pain and solitude as it flamboyantly highlights their loneliness. And then there are others still, for whom it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever—it’s just another day.
I don’t know how you feel about Valentine’s Day. I, myself, tend to fall into the last category—it’s just another day. Nevertheless, the idea of love has been on my mind this afternoon. I came across a quote this morning that really hit me. It was actually my husband Ryan who said it, and I found it in an old email he had sent me many, many moons ago. He said, “If you love others and neglect yourself, you are missing the perfect love God has for you.”
It was in response to the commonly quoted Bible verse that says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His argument was that if you are actually going to love your neighbor as yourself, it means that you actually have to love yourself. The word “as” means “equal to”. But if we were to love others in a manner that is equal to the way that we typically love ourselves nowadays… well that wouldn’t be very loving at all!
Truth be told, I haven’t done the best job of loving myself today. Okay, let’s just lay all the cards out on the table here. I let stress get the best of me and had a total meltdown over the lunch hour and am now trying to pick up the pieces. I totally gave in to obsessive thinking and found myself becoming extremely overwhelmed by something that didn’t really matter.
After venting about it to Ryan (and I’m talking about the unhealthy kind of venting—the kind where you just get yourself more and more worked up, rather than actually working through your feelings), my angst and intensity had reached a level of embarrassing proportions. I was so frustrated with myself that I just sat down and started to cry. I cried because I was overwhelmed by my emotions. I cried because I didn’t know how the situation was going to turn out and nothing stresses me out more than not feeling like I am in control. I cried because my lunch hour was almost gone and my plans for it were no longer possible. I cried because I had wanted to have a productive day, but now I just wanted to go home and give up. I cried because I felt like a failure.
In that moment, I didn’t feel loved. But the problem wasn’t that I am not valued, or that I am not worth loving. The problem was that I was simply neglecting to love myself. And because of that, I was missing out on God’s perfect love for me. So today, for Valentine’s Day, instead of a special date or a bouquet of roses, I think that all I really need is to just show myself a little love. So here I am, taking a little break from everything else that requires my attention, and reflecting on how loved and valued I am by God.
The following is my gift to myself, and my gift to you. It is an excerpt from an email that I sent to Ryan when I was recovering from my eating disorder (you can read more about that process here). I made so many wonderful discoveries during that time, and this little piece of writing has always been an important reminder to me that I am valued and loved more than I will ever understand.
“This morning I was pondering the creation of man. Over and over I read the lines: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him.” As I read on through this familiar passage, the words “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” took on new meaning. For the first time, I realized that man (that… I…) was God’s perfect and most treasured work of art. And everything about us… was perfect. If He had felt there was even one small flaw in His creation, He could have started over. But He didn’t.
And then I thought about myself as an artist. And how most of the time I make art (music, sketches, paintings, whatever) that is good. It’s decent, you know? I’m pretty pleased with it. But at the same time, I know that I am capable of something better and more meaningful. And then, every once in a while, I create something that I feel is utterly perfect—a song that couldn’t possibly describe my emotions any better, or a painting that perfectly captures the beauty of my passion in a particular moment. These pieces of art are so precious to me. In the same way, God made a vast and beautiful world—a magnificent work of art in it’s own right—but yet he was capable of making something even more meaningful… something completely perfect… something in His own image. And so, He created man. Me.
Now, how devastated would I be if someone came along, took my perfect painting and picked every single tiny flaw out of it? Then, how would I feel if they started ripping it up, or burning it, or painting over it, trying to destroy that which I had made as a perfect and pure reflection of myself and my emotions? Meanwhile, this is what I have been doing to God. I have taken my life and my body, His precious work of art, and picked out every tiny flaw and tried, in any way I could, to destroy it.
So today I have become infinitely appreciative of God’s work as a brilliant artist, and my very existence as one of His prized works of art. And here’s hoping that this discovery will continue to remind me, daily, that God made me the way I am because He finds me perfect and beautiful… and I have no right (and no need) to try to change it.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. May you love yourself today. Not because you are perfect by the world’s standards. But because you are perfect to God. You are His masterpiece.