Let me start off by saying that I am a HUGE FAN of John Eldredge. I have read all (okay, most) of his books. Starting with his co-authored book, “The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God,” written with Brent Curtis, where I learned that God is a lover, who woos people into a love relationship.
As I read this book, something changed in my heart towards God. It wasn’t a religion to me anymore, instead, I found a true and personal God who loved me for me, exactly as I am, without any conditions.
I had a summer job in a “weenie hut,” as I affectionately called it, where I ran a concession stand at a marina in a local state park with about eight hours a day to read and ruminate. As I read “The Sacred Romance,” I was weeping as I learned of His love for me in a brand new way and I was forever changed.
I am almost halfway through Eldredge’s latest book, “Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad,” published in February 2020, that is full of simple, practical, life-giving practices to combat the ultrafast, everything digital post-modern reality that constantly confronts us every moment of every day.
Despite the voracity with which I have been consuming books lately, I am taking this one slow–very slow in fact. I am digesting a chapter at a time and being filled up by the morsels of life that are offered. It is a book that I plan to read and re-read (often) as I have with many of Eldredge’s previous books. It is really that good.
As I reached chapter five, titled “Kindness Towards Ourselves,” my proverbial ears immediately perked up. This chapter in particular had my full attention. One sentence that stood out right away was the following:
“…why is practicing kindness towards my own soul so unfamiliar…?”
Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT) says,
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
As I continue to read I realize more and more how hard I am on myself. I have seen it not so clearly as I reflect on the week that just passed how I beat myself up in my parenting, my work, expectations internal or external that I just can’t seem to meet heavily weigh on me. I feel like I am constantly bludgeoning myself with my failures, my mistakes, my unmet expectations, my disappointments leaving my sense of self, bruised and bloodied, in a general state of defeat.
Now, I am an optimist. I don’t have a hopelessness and depression looming over me in my day to day. Instead, I feel like I keep an endless scorecard between expectations (mine and everyone else’s) and my “production” and it is never enough. I am always hopelessly behind.
In “Get Your Life Back,” Eldredge draws readers to the second greatest command:
“‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ Jesus taught (Mark 12:31), implying a direct link between one and the other. Loving our neighbor is clearly an essential to Christian faith; I think we all get that one. But the qualifier ‘as yourself’ is lost upon most people; it confounded me for years.”
This section of the book was particularly insightful to me and my journey in this area. Here are some really important quotes I pulled out:
“Jesus thus drives home healthy self-care as tied to loving others. If that still sounds like something from Oprah, and not the New Testament, consider this: Love your neighbor as yourself is ‘a horrible command,’ C. S. Lewis pointed out, ‘if the self were simply to be hated.'”
“The difficult truth we don’t want to admit is this: the way you treat your own heart is the way you’ll end up treating everyone else’s. We squirm; we don’t like that. We counter, ‘No—I’m much more patient with my daughter than I am with myself.’ That may be so… in the short term. But over time our little frustrations begin to show themselves, and children—who are especially perceptive to approval and disapproval—can pick up the signals.”
This is amazing stuff right?! Mind blown!!!
After reading this chapter with a new perspective, I started to see the people around me in new ways because I started showing myself kindness. I started to confront in my own heart the way I saw myself and that I could extend Jesus’ grace and forgiveness to myself.
I recognized in a new way the expectations I had put on myself and brought them to the throne of God. I asked Him what His expectation was for me in this situation and I received His mercy and grace when I fell short. The goal of the Christian life is not perfection. The goal is engaging in a love relationship with our savior. Perfection is the goal of the Pharisee, the person enslaved to law and religion.
I am learning that my love towards my kids and my family is limited to the love I can show myself. Kindness towards myself is a most important starting place.
Eldredge closes the chapter with this:
“Kindness means not expecting perfection in these practices, not requiring yourself to feel anything, being gracious about your heart’s slow journey towards God.”
Get a copy of John Eldredge’s newest book, “Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad” from Amazon here.