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Coffee, Love, and Grace

Lisa Byrne is a holistic health counselor and Christian mom. When a dear friend read her article, “Who Do You Feel You Are”, she sent it to me immediately because she knew I’d love it. And I do. The entire piece is wonderfully refreshing, but there is something specific I want to share that women struggling with the bonds of  ‘performance spirituality’ need to understand. Lisa writes,
The bible records that Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was.  He replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your 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.’ But in my experience, this is more than a command..it is how things truly are. I can only love others as I love myself.  I can only extend grace to others as I allow myself to accept grace.

  

How are you?
How are you, really?
     I see this paragraph as a call to seek truth in the inward parts, like David writes; as a call to see what is real, not just as we really wish they would be. For in our zeal to follow Jesus’ command to deny ourselves and take up the cross, the full context of His command to “love your neighbor as yourself”  often becomes watered down. Worried we’ll go too far, others warn us that self-love is innate, natural to the flesh and something to rise above everyday. Perhaps some need these exhortations, but what about those who struggle with depression and emotional wounds? With bitter self-hatred? Whose arms wear burns and slash marks? Whose heart wears burns and gashes?

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20

What if you were your own neighbor? What if you were your own brother?
Have Grace
     I live in the South where Southern hospitality comes a-twinkling in crystal glasses of sweet iced tea. We want you to be comfortable, to eat, to inhale gallons of tea and relax on a porch swing loaded with giant floral pillows. Your visit would not be complete unless you heard “Can I get you anything, honey? Are you hungry? Do you need another pillow?” at least thirty times. While I am not the epitome of the southern gal ~ I ‘m not as sunny, for one thing, and I’ll offer you powerfully strong coffee, and the porch swing might be a dusty seat on the balcony with plants tickling your ear ~ I do want my friends to feel comfortable, to feel wanted, welcomed, and loved. To leave refreshed, nurtured, rested, inspired, and ready to face another day.
     Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What does your mouth speak about yourself? Do you attend to your needs? The expression “actions speak louder than words” applies, too. If you treated your friend the way you treat yourself, how do you think she would she respond? If you spoke to your friend the way you speak to yourself, how would she feel? Try to reflect on this over the next few days. It’s important to be aware of how you view yourself. 
     This isn’t a call to selfishness; rather, a plea for balance. Look again at the command: love your neighbor as yourself. What a lovely tension! Yet there was a time in my life that if I truly loved my neighbor as myself, that would mean I’d punch my neighbor in the leg. That I’d tell her she was fat and ugly and worthless and should’ve never been born. That she was a mistake and a burden to everyone she loved. I would’ve tried to rip the hair off her head and scream at her til I was hoarse and beg God to kill her. I would’ve planned her murder.
     If you were to truly love your neighbor as yourself, what would this look like to her? Would you try to poison her? Would you attack her with razors? Would you starve her? Withhold care and nourishment? Would you make her work and work and work without rest? Would you force her to eat until she’s sick? Would you keep her from health? Would you hate her, tear her down and tell her it’s for her own good, so she can learn humility?
     Lisa Byrne writes truth she learned from her own experience:

I can only nurture others as I nurture myself.

     Please pray that God will show you what this means for you, and how this looks for your life. Just as He is gracious, let us be gracious to others, even when the others are ourselves.

Reflections: How do you treat yourself? How does your own heart see you, and your mouth speak of you? What would it mean for you to learn to love your neighbor as you love yourself? What holds you back?

Discover grace with us on Fridays and link to discoveries of your own…


19 comments:

  1. Wow. Gonna have to think about this today. I think I would at least word things differently. I want to learn more of the language of grace.

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  2. ummm … well … that's a hard pill to swallow; but necessary. it's been hard to learn how to take care of myself and to nurture myself. there's so much guilt with caring for myself. i think i care for others, including my children, the way i want to be cared for … i just don't always know how to do that for me.

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  3. This is powerful. Selfishness and love of self were a constant mantra growing up, and you right, if I had truly loved my neighbor as loved myself I would have starved her, hated her, plotted to kill her, wished she were dead, told her how ugly and fat she was. Listed all her faults and failings. Love yourself, there it is right in the bible.

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  4. Paul also writes in Phillipians something that I think the balance of gets overlooked:

    "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

    We are usually taught only the second part of that verse. Incidentally, the verse before it talks about esteeming others better than ourselves…which we discussed in a prior Journey to Grace article.

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  5. In talking with my daughter driving home from one of the most difficult journeys I have made in my life, she spoke to me about her abusive boyfriend.

    "Mom, if I had gotten pregnant I would've run. I would have gone far away to have the baby and put 'unknown' for the father on the birth certificate. I could never let my baby live with such a man for a father!"

    I began to cry, and honestly, from my heart, I softly said, "What about my baby? I don't want my baby to live with that either…"

    She has since told me that conversation was the beginning of her realizing she really did deserve better.

    Love your neighbor as yourself. Why are we women so prone to demanding or allowing suffering for ourselves that we would NEVER allow or choose for another?

    Great post, once again, Hillary. Thanks for writing.

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  6. Just contemplating how not taking care of one's self can really become a selfish act. I'm thinking of CS Lewis' example in The Four Loves. He talks about the woman who so busy doing things for her family that they don't really want her to do for them. She robs them of what they want the most – her true self, her authentic love.

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  7. I've been following your blog for a while…thanks to a dear friend who fowarded me the link. So many of your posts have hit home, but none more so than this. This is actually something I have been working on and pondering and praying about for the past several months. It took a precious older lady in my church to point out to me that I truly did need to love myself and find that balance.

    What a foreign idea it was to me. But it's true…if I had treated my neighbor the way I was treating myself, I would have scared her arms and legs with razors, made her not eat and then overeat and then tried to make her throw up, spoke utterly hateful words to her, and the list goes on.

    But God has helped me so much. When I think of how far I have come in 6 months, through the help of counseling and medication, much prayer, and the support of loving friends, I can only praise Him. Hope is real, and freedom is possible. Thank you for what you do. Knowing I'm not alone…it makes a difference.

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  8. Love flows naturally, so if it's not flowing naturally, then we have to look back to God and find out if we truly love Him or if our love for religion is in the way. Sometimes women love their service to God, thinking their service is how they love God, but that isn't always so. A woman can really enjoy doing laundry and love doing laundry and get really really good at doing laundry and miss the mark on who she's doing the laundry for. Even though my husband likes his clothes clean, he would much rather I give him special attention at night than to do laundry til midnight. If we aren't spontaneously and naturally loving others, then we need to understand what it means to truly rest in Christ and really have a spiritual communing relationship with Him first. Understand how loved WE are, when we understand how loved WE are by God, the rest comes naturally. It's not something we have to work at. It will just happen.

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  9. I just posted my link to "ADD and ME? We'll Manage" because I am learning to dwell on my strengths and the things I'm already doing right and not just address my weaknesses. That is part of being kind to oneself, don't you think?

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  10. Sharon…the language of grace: yes. And it seems so different when we direct it towards ourselves, doesn't it?

    Ame & Young Mom…I just want to hug you…I know it's tough to look at it like this; have grace while you address these thought patterns and don't worry if it takes awhile to change. Just being aware will go a long way. And every day is new. <3

    SS ~ your story made me cry! {hugs}

    Angie, Sisterlisa, and Virginia…thank you.

    Rae…I want to hug you too! Bless your heart…I can identify with what you wrote so much ~ you are definitely not alone. I'm glad God sent that woman to you and is helping you in this area. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

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  11. Thanks Hilary. 🙂 I was freaking out about writing that comment at first…but I'm glad I did. There's just…something freeing in sharing, even if it's just in a little comment on someone's blog. And look! No judgment here. 🙂

    Someday I'd love to blog like you do…I have an enormous passion for writing and expressing myself through writing. Maybe I will once I'm no longer a 20 year old college student desperately trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my life. 😛 But anyway. Thank you for your kind words. You…made my day.

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  12. wow. that hit home. there has been significant healing in my life, especially in the past year as God healed me from being suicidal, but i still treat myself horribly. how much of this stems from how i've been treated by others, especially those in the church, i don't know. but i do know that i would never ever treat one of my neighbours the way i treat myself, not in a million years! obviously,this is something i need to think and pray on further.

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  13. So did you write this post directly to me on purpose?

    When I was 12, my parents sent me to the senior pastor for counseling because I was clearly not happily growing into my teen years. I asked him "how can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don't love yourself?" Looking back with as much grace as I can muster, he probably interpreted my "not loving myself" as meaning I wasn't selfish or arrogant because his response went something like "since we are to consider others as better than ourselves, it is good not to love yourself". I took it to mean that God WANTED me to loathe, despise, and revile myself, literally to "consider myself nothing". Almost 35 years later, I am realizing how deeply imbedded in my mind that advice still is.

    I will be saving this post to read, reread, and read again… and again. Thank you.

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  14. What a powerful post.

    Thank you for being bold and writing about the truth. Thank you for letting me see my daughters for the beauty that they are — and that I honor them.

    You're a blessing.

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  15. Wow, that was a powerful post Hillary. The post opened my eyes to what it must look like when a building collapses.

    You stand in awe, and amazement, and just watch it in shock.

    But I found with your post, that once the building hit the ground, it was as soft as your Southern Pillows.

    It was gentle.

    And I realized, the "building" that I watched tumble down was a false idea of what selfishness is.

    I really needed this today. Thank you! ♥

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  16. alittlebitograce: I am praying for you; I know how deep these thing run and how strong they can hold. But there is hope ~ take heart! Jesus came to set the captives free, to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. And He loves you. {{hugs}}

    Sandra ~ 🙁 Wow…that just shows how easy and yet how devastating it is when Scripture is misunderstood and twisted, and the effects of it. I pray that the Lord will uproot the deep things that you battle now and instead make you as a tree planted by the waters…

    Rachel ~ Thank you for stopping by my site. May God bless you and your lovely family. Hugs!

    J2J…thank you. Your word picture was beautifully vivid…may God continue His good work in you. 🙂

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  17. I never feel like I'm good enough and use self depricating humor to cover myself before another gets to criticize but a dear friend told me I'm drawing too much attention to myself by using this coping mechanism.

    I am a Daughter of the King He has given me gifts to use He has given me one job to do: to represent Him as an ambassidor in this world. How do I represent Him? By following two rules: Love God, Love people.

    Fear and insecurity have prevented this at times these things need to be overcome.

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  18. I spent my childhood, teen, and (until recently) adult years thinking that "love your neighbor as yourself" means "love your neighbor more than yourself". I thought that, if I took care of everyone else, it would make up for self-loathing. It would make up for apathy. It would make up for my tendencies towards depression and anxiety (because of chemical imbalances, not lack of faith).

    I'm realizing now that to love your neighbor as yourself, you have to take care of yourself. You have to care for yourself.

    This post is yet more proof of that. Thank you, dear Hillary.

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  19. I relate to Sandra's comment. I grew up with the misconception that God actually WANTED me to loathe myself. That if I thought I was a nice person, I was prideful and delusional because what I REALLY am is an awful, awful sinner.
    This makes it hard to share the gospel with others, when for you personally it's not good news but condemnation.

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