I’ve discovered over the years that my wife is full of good information, but I don’t often listen quickly enough.
I recently started listening to the audio version of Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (affiliate link), which is one she read in high school.
I’ve been through it twice in the last week now, and I’m sure it’s one I will be going through many times, because I realize that the book speaks to something I clearly don’t live out of easily: my identity as Abba’s child – Daddy’s boy, if you will.
No matter how much I think I’ve taken in the message, I find a hesitancy inside me. The issue, as weird as it sounds in the context of worship, is that I actually don’t love myself very well. I think the idea that finally made it sink in deeper this past week was this: when Jesus tells you to love “the least of these” – i.e., the poor, the unlovable, the broken, etc. – oftentimes the VERY least of these people, and the hardest to really love, is yourself.
I know many people are bound to question the value of self-esteem, which Manning places high value on. Believe me, the negative reviews on Amazon were completely predictable. They denounce it as heresy, humanistic, “New Age”, dangerous, etc. What continues to boggle my mind is how people can be so disconnected from anything that makes them human. These same people consistently tell us to beware of our emotions, as if God screwed up in giving them to us. I see these same types of reviews showing up around any book I’ve found helpful toward bringing emotional healing.
Done ranting for now. Back to the topic…
I’ve noticed something important about self-esteem though. As my wife can attest, I am a very harsh and critical person at times. It may not be obvious on the surface, but I’m actually extremely hard on and critical of myself. I went through counseling and EMDR therapy in the past year and we actually spent a fair amount of time addressing this very issue and I’ve noticed as sharp increase in my ability to be nice to other people and truly love them and accept them right where they are as I’ve been able to love myself and raise my own self-esteem. This shouldn’t be that hard to deal with. After all, part two of what Jesus called the sum of all the law and prophets was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I’ve been struck by how inescapable that law is. I don’t know for sure that loving yourself well automatically means you will love others well, but I can say for a fact now that you will never love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself first.
I supposed that’s where I tie this back to leading worship. I haven’t led worship since going through this book yet, but I can feel a difference in my approach to Jesus already. There’s less hesitancy, and more willingness to be really honest with him and with myself. I’m sure there’s more healing to come.
The other part of the book that has struck me is Manning’s focus on the importance of being alone with myself as a regular practice. The truth is, I have to admit, in a very raw place in me, I have to fight a deep, guttural terror when it comes to being truly alone, because that sinful, empty part of myself is pretty sure there’s going to be nothing there. I think Manning called it a form of practical agnosticism. I guess I must not be alone in this terror because most of the negative reviewers also had plenty to say about how worthless meditation and solitude and quiet contemplation are. Anyway, it’s still something for me keep pressing into and working on.
I’ve said all I have to say for now. What about you? Do you think you really love yourself well? Do you really think God loves you like a Daddy loves his child? Really? How would it affect your worship if you did?