There it was, once again, right before my eyes in black and white. Those important and authoritative sounding words cloaked in seemingly wise, sage terminology. “The greatest achievement of all is finding yourself because it’s only when you accept and love who you are that you’re free to love others.” I’ve seen this quote in various forms and in multiple places throughout the years. It’s just one of those sentences that on the surface, sound so logical, but is in fact, dead wrong. A life lived to find itself is really a life lived selfishly, and ultimately, in vain. Now those words actually make a better quote but the best quote of all comes from the lips of Jesus Himself.
In Matthew 10:37-39 Jesus said that as His followers, we must love Him more than anyone else in our lives and He directs us to pick up our own unique crosses and follow Him daily. Then in verse 39 comes the words that really are the most important, authoritative, and wisest quote on this subject. Jesus says, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”
Finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers. We’ve grown up hearing that little catch phrase spoken many times. It really does reflect how the world sees it. Spend your life seeking those things that please you and make you happy and you’ll find yourself, and true peace in the process. Only when you’re at peace with yourself and love who you are, can you become a better lover of other people. But Jesus tells us here that in reality, the exact opposite is true. It’s the losers who really are the keepers, not the other way around. And it’s the finders who, in the end, will be the weepers when they realize that what they lived their entire lives for was all for nothing.
Does this reflect your life direction today? Are you concentrating all your efforts into finding out who you are, finding true peace with yourself in the process, and then hoping to become a more loving person to others once you find that love for yourself? I can sure relate to that because that was my determination for much of my life. I grew up as a young child in the foster care system hearing many hateful and hurtful words flung at me daily and endured a lot of abuse of different kinds as I grew up. I ended up internalizing those words and believing they were true. I believed I had no value, no worth, and no beauty of any kind. When I was 12 years old I had a life changing encounter with Jesus and I accepted His gift of salvation. Yes, He saved me but I unfortunately carried all my insecurities, self-doubts, and self-hatred into this new relationship with Him.
I loved Jesus and I really wanted to be confident in His love for me but there was always that part of me inside that struggled to believe He could actually love me like He seemed to. I was a slave to my own insecurities and pain and I related to other people in ways designed to protect me from being hurt by them. I was a friendly and social person to be around but I was always very protective of my heart. I let people in a little, but only as far as my carefully crafted defenses would allow. A friend of mine once told me that even though we spent a lot of time together and had been friends for years, they honestly didn’t know me at all. I was fun to be around but I never really put myself out there, I was always guarded and held my heart in a tight grip. How can you honestly love someone else when you’re determined to relate to them in a way that keeps you safe, not in a way that opens yourself to them for their benefit? The short answer? You can’t.
But still believing the answer was in finding myself and learning to love who I was, I continued my pursuit of that with a Christian twist. I memorized Bible verse after Bible verse about how special I was to God and how much He loved me and I spent time in counseling to work through the issues I had inside but no matter what I did I remained a slave to that inner voice in me, the one that denigrated me and defeated me at every turn. I was good in theater, and was a good student at school, I loved to sing, play flute and do my artwork so I determined to become as good as I could at those things. And after I got married I discovered a love for teaching aerobic dance classes and weight training so I threw myself into those as well, thinking that if I could make my body beautiful enough, thin enough, strong enough, then I could finally begin to love who I was, who God made me to be. I loved teaching Bible Studies and singing, both solos and together on the worship team at my church, and I received some great feedback on my “performances” in those areas. It felt good for a moment, hearing praise from other people, but my inner voice was always quick to remind me that if they really knew who I was inside, they’d run for the hills. No matter what successes I achieved that inner voice was undeterred, unchanging, and brutal.
Thankfully Jesus is still working in me. I’m absolutely still a work in progress but today I can honestly say I’m finally discovering a love for who I am, the good and the not-so-good. These changes in me only began to happen when I shifted my focus off who I was and began to focus on who God was… and surprise, surprise, I found a love for myself as His child in the process. For almost 48 years Jesus has faithfully and jealously loved me in a way that has revolutionized my life. One turning point for me came when I was challenged by a friend to see how much I hated my bad self-image, but how much I chose to hang onto it because it served to help insulate me from the judgments and hurts of others. It was a painful but monumental shift for me when I owned the truth of that. Once I began to let go of what others thought of me and became much more concerned about who Jesus was, I began to approach Him and His Word differently and I began to change internally. In the end It was because I focused on Him, not on me… a crucial point in my life journey.
Next time I’m going to tell you more about the things God has allowed in my life to help bring about this shift in focus. I hope my story can be helpful to you as well and there’s just too much to share in one post. Finder’s weepers, loser’s keepers… hold that thought. Until next time…