Loving yourself as well as your neighbor
“It all seems to be falling apart,” he said. “Who can we trust? What I do doesn’t seem to make a difference any more.”
This has been quite an autumn. With the presidential election, record storms and the jitters on Wall Street, many people feel overwhelmed. Recently I was in a school working with one of our Sudanese children and met Simon, the school’s volunteer fix-it man. Simon, perhaps in his late seventies, loves his parish and school and putters endlessly. He is one of those men that every institution needs. If an outlet doesn’t work, painting needs to be done, a delivery needs to be hauled into the school or the planter needs to be weeded, we call Simon. Most likely you know a “Simon” or two!
“When I encountered Simon, he was discouraged. “It all seems to be falling apart,” he said. “Who can we trust? What I do doesn’t seem to make a difference anymore.”
As he spoke, he twirled the electrical outlet cover that he was working on. This man, who has spent his life fixing the broken and keeping the faith, was overwhelmed.
Feeling overwhelmed and sympathetic
These autumn weeks have also been an overwhelming time for Project Welcome Sudanese Refugee Community
. Resources for charities are stretched, and companies once generous are now tightening their belts. Even though Project Welcome can survive on little, we hope and pray that our regular donors will continue to help us because our Sudanese families, as all American families, are feeling the economic pinch. And with poor economic times, families on the edge often degenerate into domestic violence. And domestic violence often follows with children who manifest behavior problems in school. In short, when Simon spoke about being overwhelmed, I found myself sympathetic.
As Christians, our command from Jesus is a simple one: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This command, this guidance, thankfully works in both good times and bad. Women, for the most part, are good at loving their neighbor. We take care of our kids and the neighborhood children. We look after our homes and husbands. We bake brownies for classrooms and the office. We spend our lives “fixing” the small things in life, caring for the needs of others.
What we forget at times is that Jesus tells us to “Love our neighbor as yourself.” The "as yourself" part is important and sometimes forgotten by busy women. As we move further into autumn and into holiday seasons, and as the days grow shorter and darker, taking care of our bodies and souls becomes essential. Stress and exhaustion lead to discouragement. Those who “mother” the world need time to "love themselves" a bit, especially when days are difficult.
Caring for ourselves
One recent night I took a walk just as it was getting dark. It had been a tough week, and I needed the exercise and alone time. My mind was preoccupied with many concerns when I noticed a maple tree visibly turning red beneath a harvest moon. The beauty of this lone tree—I am a Wisconsin girl living in Nebraska and there are few maples on the prairie to admire—disrupted my worries. I stood admiring the tree’s loveliness, wondering how much beauty I had missed on my walk because my mind had been so preoccupied. I resumed my walk and intentionally focused on discovering other beauties on my way. Unfortunately, the next thing I saw was a bat!
If God is love, our Christian lives are simply about loving God, loving neighbor and loving ourselves. Those of us who “mother” the world with one small deed at the time sometimes forget to love ourselves. During these autumn days, Jesus’ command is particularly important because if we lovers of the world forget to care for ourselves and become overwhelmed, discouragement will overtake us. We are Christians. In our acts of “mothering” the world, we need also to care for ourselves.
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Tuesday, November, 18, 2008