I'll tell you what...
In this particular season, not one week goes by when I don't learn a new reason why the first ingredient in the "love juice box" (I Corinthians 13:4-8) is patience. For instance this week, every time I would get ready to pen something on this particular topic, the Spirit (John 4:24) would be like "not yet"...and I wasn't sure why.
I just got my answer about 20 minutes ago. Let me set it up for you first, though.
What initially inspired this particular blog was hearing actress Lauren London say something that she heard actress Jennifer Lewis say. I get why it stuck with her because it provided me a few warm-and-fuzzy-moments-of-clarity too:
"Love yourself so that you can recognize love."
Love yourself so that you can "identify, perceive, acknowledge" patience, kindness, truth and endurance. Yeah. That's hot and it definitely brings new enlightenment to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). Sadly, there are so many women who are chasing after men, but not love...desperate to be in a relationship, that lacks love...wishing to share their lives with someone without knowing what a real love union is to fully consist of.
Perhaps that's just one more reason why James 1:4(NKJV) says "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." Another way to look at that is "Let patience, the waiting period before actually being in a relationship with someone else, do what needs to be done in order to teach you how to love yourself so that you won't be looking for a man to give you what you, for yourself, can provide." Because as I often say, a relationship should be "surplus"---it should simply add to the abundance of self-fulfillment that is already within you. It shouldn't "complete you". It should *enhance you*.
I was just talking to a girlfriend of mine about a little while ago about this very topic. One of the things that I said is sadly, so many women look to a man to do what Christ already did: *save them* (John 19, John 3:16). They want a man to make them feel loved...wanted...worthy when Christ's sacrifice already did all of those things. And to not acknowledge that is not only unfortunate but a setting yourself up for making someone an idol (Exodus 20:3). No man (NO MAN) deserves the platform of being the one who first introduced a woman to love. No man deserves pressure of trying to make a woman feel loved, either. What he does deserve is the pleasure of being in the presence of the kind of woman who wants to share the love *that she already has* with him. As he does the same.
In a love relationship, both people should feel like they are being loved by someone who already loves themselves---mind, body and spirit. Otherwise, it may be an addiction, but it's not true love. It may be codependency, but it's not true love. It may be a pacifier, but it's not true love.
In order to attract a real lover, you must be one yourself. That comes with loving who you are...first.
I got a confirmation of this fact when I "happened upon" (Proverbs 16:33-AMP), ironically, a suicide note in the form of a blog from a 29-year-old woman who was a promising filmmaker. Her name was Vanessa Garcia and she took her own life earlier this month. Here is an excerpt of her final blog post:
"Over these last 15 years, I’ve thought to myself, 'If I get good grades, graduate high school, graduate college, struggle for my dreams day and night, lose weight, fall in love, make people laugh, love my friends, show up for my family, dance, travel, get sober, pray, go to therapy, take anti-depressants, swim, read, make movies, write books, smile' … then I’ll FINALLY be happy. F--k being happy, maybe I’ll just feel some semblance of peace, contentment, and gratitude. I’d be lying if I said that doing all those things didn’t add profound joy to my existence because they did.
The Four Experiences I’ll miss most about living:
1) Spending time with people I love
2) Creating Art: Namely making movies & writing
3) Experiencing Other People’s Art: Films, Books, Plays, Exhibits, Music, Dance (Especially Flamenco)
4) Traveling the world
The 1 Experience I’m glad to leave behind:
1) Being Me
Cheesy, Pathetic, and Cliché, but true. There’s only so many people and movies and beaches you can see before you return to yourself. I LOATHE myself. I am the greatest disappointment of my life on all fronts: professionally, physically, financially, romantically. The chronic melancholia of my teenage years has only grown with time and at this point in my life, it keeps me in a state of complete self-absorption. Self-Pity is my daily and nightly routine. I sleep the days away and when I’m actually conscious I can’t seem to get out of bed, bathe, pay for my car registration. I haven’t been able to enjoy the four experiences listed above for quite a while because I’m acutely aware of my presence at all times. It seems impossible to distract myself from being myself long enough to participate aka fully immerse myself in an enjoyable interaction.
I feel as though I’m watching from behind a glass shark tank as the world unfolds in all of its majestic glory. I’m just not a part of it anymore. I haven’t belonged to the experience of “living” for a long time.
In summary, I’m dead already. I have nothing left to contribute. I wish I did. I wish I’d made more of a positive impact and meaningful contribution to society and the planet before I left it. If I had the capacity to do so, I would stay, but I can’t seem to kick this debilitating, crippling, HELLA’ annoying sadness.
I hope that suicide will offer some relief. If there is no afterlife, then I welcome the peace of nothingness. If there is an afterlife and God does exist, I hope he’ll have mercy on my soul and welcome me to the light."
If you want to read the note in its entirety, you can do so here. But from what I just shared, out of all that she penned, what stood out to me most (as it relates to this blog specifically) was this: "I LOATHE myself. I am the greatest disappointment of my life on all fronts: professionally, physically, financially, romantically."
Do you think that Vanessa is the only one to feel that way? Shoot, I get emails often from "On Fire" women who feel like a lot like what she penned more than a little bit but the thing is, Vanessa went one extreme while many other women tend to go the other. She didn't love herself and so she took her own life. So many other women don't love themselves and so they get into counterproductive, non-God-ordained, settling situations that continue to drain them---professionally, physically, financially and romantically. Over and over...and over again. They look to others to fill their voids rather than to God to provide them with the path (Proverbs 3:5-6) of how to become whole. And becoming whole is so essential because a fractionated person is (usually) going to pick *a very different person* than a whole one will.
Even while living, Vanessa said that she was dead. That she had nothing to contribute. That she no longer had the capacity to make a positive impact and meaningful contribution to the world. Do you know how many women feel like unless or until they are in a relationship that they are just like Vanessa: dead woman walking? That they can't live to the fullest unless they have someone else's last name and a ring on the third finger of their left hand? Or at least someone who makes those intentions known?
Vanessa's story is sad. Suicide always is. But when people get into relationships that aren't God's will, when they marry the wrong person and it ends in divorce, when they spend more time trying to "get someone" than simply be who they are---it's still like a death in some ways. Being outside of God's will robs you of an abundant life. Divorce is a death (it's a marriage that the people involved killed). And not taking advantage of each day, each moment, that we are given to celebrate the God who made us (Psalm 118:24) and the individuals that we are (Psalm 139:14, Psalm 33:15), that is also taking on a suicidal mentality in the sense that living that way is "foolishly or rashly dangerous".
Not loving yourself is a suicidal mentality. Loving yourself is a life-altering gift.
This is a sobering message, I know but I actually appreciate Vanessa's blog. It reminds me to love myself enough to know that God and I are enough. And that anyone else is simply...a bonus.
Don't look to someone else to teach you how to love you.
Real lovers love themselves. By themselves. For themselves. First.