Two kinds of people always smile. One is really brave, while the other lives in misery. The first put on her galoshes and brave girl pants, waded through the mud, and even when she got overwhelmed – chose to keep moving. The second turned her back on the dirty pit, chose to pretend it does not exist and every time life gets difficult, she smells the stench and scurries to cover it up.
And here’s the deal, we all have a dirty muddy pit. We all make mistakes, have been victims of other peoples mistakes, have personality and character flaws, sin patterns, dysfunctional relationship tendencies, misguided coping skills…you name it. Unless we are Jesus, there is and always will be something, and often multiple things, we could get better at – work on – improve – forgive – or even turn away from. However, some of us choose to love ourselves with an agape kind of love while others do not.
So what is agape love? It’s the love Christ has for us. It’s not a feeling or emotion, but rather a verb. It makes a choice to love, even at the cost of inconvenience or discomfort, without expecting anything in return. What does this have to do with embracing our flaws and imperfections? In Mark 12:31 Jesus speaks of agape love by commanding us to love Him and to love others as we love ourselves. Perhaps we find it easy to love Him, maybe we even find it simple to love others, but so many of us have difficulty loving ourselves. And so we choose to embrace the pretty parts while hiding the ugly.
Here’s the deal…how can we love ourselves when we refuse acknowledge that parts of us even exist? The opposite of love is not hate, it is rejection. How often do we choose to reject parts of us that are ugly, misguided, broken, and hurting? ALL THE TIME! We reject these parts of ourselves all the time! We hide them, bury them, smash them, squash them down, tie them to the wall, and do whatever it takes to keep them under wraps – all the while not realizing the damage we are doing. But we can stop. We can choose to apply agape love to ourselves.
We choose to accept ourselves…flaws, imperfections, and all…because it’s what God would have us do. He loves us just as we are. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have sent His One and Only Son to save us while we were yet broken, ashamed, lost, and hurting. He didn’t die for the perfect people, because there are none, He died for you – THE MESSY YOU!
I’ll be the first to admit…trudging through your own mud pit isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s just plain ugly and dirty. You will see things about yourself that you wish you never saw and maybe even remember things you wish would just go and stay away. But every single thing in that pit is part of what makes you who you are, and God can and will use it for good…but you have to get real about the fact that it exists before you can ever reap those benefits.
Maybe it’s time to retire the fake smile. Who needs it anyways? Trade it in for some work gloves and mud stompin’ boots.
You might be afraid. So was I. But I can assure you…you are not alone. Jesus will walk through it with you, and maybe you can even find a good friend or therapist to help you navigate the especially deep parts.
And you want to know the best part? Before you even reach the other side, God has a gift for you. It’s the best gift in the world.
Your true smile.
The smile that’s says I choose to love myself like God loves me, even when I feel and act unloveable, because I know the truth. I am chosen, whole, and redeemed right here – right now – and nothing can, or ever will, change that.