November 3, 2023
I learned recently that the World Health Organization has a specific definition of “self-care.” It is “our ability and personal agency to promote health, maintain well-being, prevent disease, and cope with illness.” I am drawn to the phrase “ability and personal agency” as it seems to imply that simply having the ability does not mean a person will actually seek to make it happen. Though absolutely true, it is important for us to name it. I sort of wonder if we confuse thinking about self-care with actually doing the work of self-care. Amit Ray is a spiritual guru of sorts, focusing on inner-peace, meditation, compassion, and mindfulness. He wrote, “Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love, light, and compassion.” What a wonderful image to challenge us, but for many people, beautifying that inner dialogue is hard. Too many voices speak loudly and authoritatively, conveying a message that is neither beautiful nor healthy. When Jesus invited his disciples to love God, love neighbor, and love themselves, it has been viewed as a specific sequence, but as we learn in I John 4, we are capable of love ONLY because God first loved us (our identity statement as a church). In that moment of faithful realization that we are loved unconditionally and immeasurably by God, we begin to have a dialogue with our inner-self that is beautiful, healthy, and life-giving. From there comes a joyful love of God that is birthed from gratitude. This gives rise to our ability to love the neighbor who we realize is loved by God equally to us. But without allowing God to speak affirming words into us and then being able to have a beautifying inner dialogue, we will always fall short of loving ourselves, our neighbors (spouse, children, friends, enemies, irritating co-workers, etc.), and God.
Continue to speak a good word into my head and heart, Gracious God, for there are other voices, both past and present, that are offering an alternative opinion to your loving affirmation. Only then will I find the strength to reaffirm for myself what you have been claiming all along. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge