Part 1: Love Yourself First
There was a period of time in which I was very involved in my Church – running three cell groups, getting involved in outreach after outreach, attending several meetings a week, teaching new believers, feeling driven to save more souls … alongside managing a household with three young children, taking care of my mentally disabled deaf-mute brother with multiple medical issues, and managing our finances.
I plunged myself into all these roles after giving up my career, sacrificing sleep, rest and everything else in my life as I was deeply in love with God and wanted to please Him by serving Him. Church leaders preached that serving God was the greatest honour and the whole purpose of living.
Flat Out, Running on Empty
One day, one of the tires of my car got punctured. Crazily enough, the rest of them then got punctured in succession and all four of them were replaced in the course of just two weeks. I was so tired, as this came in the midst of me running on a tight schedule and a tight budget.
Feeling sorry for myself, I asked God why He allowed this to happen.
He showed me a few pictures – 2 big bold letters “FLAT OUT” and a petrol gauge in an old-style gas station that was near empty.
He said to me – “You are near burn out - flat out and running on empty.”
YOU ARE NEAR BURN OUT - FLAT OUT AND RUNNING ON EMPTY
I was then earnestly embracing my Church’s vision to become the biggest Church in our country and in Asia, thinking that this was what God wanted.
God told me to stop doing everything I was doing. He showed me a picture of a ballerina, saying: “Sara, I want you to learn how to achieve perfect balance in life.”
“Learn to be Selfish”
In hindsight, God had sent people before this to warn me to slow down, but I was so caught up in the euphoria of Church life, and too stressed out and too busy to listen.
He sent a couple to live next door to me for four years to mentor me. They had given up their careers and home to follow His call to start a Christian website and help churches to engage the internet – at a time when the internet was considered worldly and evil by the Church.
SW came to me, looked me earnestly in the eye and said these words:
“Sara, you have to learn to be selfish”.
I was taken aback. It totally went against the Christian ethos of living sacrificially and putting others before myself. I then put her comment aside with a dose of healthy skepticism.
A Gentle Rebuke
One day, plagued by a chronic stiff neck, I went to see a Chinese sinseh (traditional Chinese doctor/physiotherapist). He had told me before that my neck and shoulders were as hard as a rock and that I needed to see him two to three times a week until it was fixed.
But I was not able to get there so frequently as his clinic was far away from where I lived and the queue was often so long. But my neck got worse to the point where I could not sleep, so I went to him again.
He shook his head and scolded me in Chinese, “I told you to come two to three times a week and you come once in a few months! If you will not love yourself, then I will also not love you!”
IF YOU WILL NOT LOVE YOURSELF, THEN I WILL ALSO NOT LOVE YOU
I was stunned at his outburst. I figured he was not trying to make a pass at me as my husband was next to me when he said that. Then I realised that it was God rebuking me! I finally understood what SW had said.
I turned to the Lord in repentance and asked Him for help as I had really tried my best to be a good Christian. I surrendered to Him, feeling like a failure.
A Lesson on the Greatest Commandment
He asked me, “Sara, what is the Greatest Commandment?”
I knew that, of course. I turned to Matthew 22:36-39, New Living Translation (NLT):
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
“Love God first with your all.”
“Next, love your neighbour as yourself.”
“So, love who next?” He asked me.
“Well,” I said, “The Senior Pastor always preached on this verse and the order was – love God, love others and put yourself last. In fact, he said that if we put others first – we then fulfill the first commandment. That is, if you want to prove that you love God, you love others first. Period.”
The Holy Spirit asked me to read it again.
Love others AS YOURSELF (He emphasised).
He asked me again:
“Who comes first?”
“Your neighbour or yourself?”
HE ASK ME AGAIN : "WHO COME FIRST?" "YOUR NEIGHBOUR OR YOURSELF?"
And then I saw it and understood it – as myself!
Love myself first!
Then, in the same way, go love others!
He was pleased that I got it ☺
“四平八稳” (Shi Pin Ba Wen)
With this new understanding, I went to think and started to doodle.
I sketched various models and ways to manage my time better; to divide my time between God, quiet time, prayer, taking care of myself, recreation and sports, time with my husband and children, managing our investments and helping other people or ministries.
I tried various models – pyramids, circles, pie charts, time schedules, etc.
None really worked.
Then finally, the Lord showed me how – through my four flat tyres I talked about earlier, which I will continue in the next post. Looking back now, I cannot help but laugh at it. I love God’s sense of humour ☺
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