The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. There is no other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12 v 31 (NIV)
I’ve always ignored this second commandment. I’ve ignored it, because to follow it would make no sense against the rest of my understanding of Jesus’ teachings. If I were to follow what He says above, I would be a truly horrid person. I would treat others with contempt, and anger, and I would be deeply ashamed of them. I would question and berate their every decision, and persistently point out their mistakes and faults. I would whisper to them that it would be better for everyone if they weren’t there. That no one actually likes them. In short, I do not love myself. I hate me, through and through, and utterly. I cannot remember a time when this was not the case.
What is Jesus trying to say? That we should love ourselves?
One of the nurses I see on the mental health team reminds me of what this verse says. She tells me that I have to love myself, and look after myself. The Bible says so. She tells me that I am precious. I do not believe her. When I try to do what she says I feel worse, and guilty, because I should be looking to others’ needs, not to my own. That’s what the Bible says. And I feel like it’s my fault I’m in this place, and I certainly don’t deserve kindness, from me, or anyone.
Yet still, people are patient and kind. They sit with me when I cry, and tell me that things can get better. They say that I need to get better to be able to look to others’ needs. That I have to look after myself, and then I can help others. They all say that it is OK not to serve others for a while. All of them say the same thing. All also say that God wants for me to thrive, to find healing.
Not to serve feels so wrong. So at odds with what I feel I should be doing. I feel compelled to serve, not to receive. To just be with God, without the noise and energy and diversion of service, feels scary. But it is, I am told, one of God’s greatest commandments. If that is so, it feels a long way out of my grasp. I pray for help to follow it.