We have all heard the saying, “You can’t love until you love yourself.” I had someone tell me that when I started volunteering.
I hate that saying. For several reasons.
The first is that I’m sassy and I don’t like being told what I cannot do. The second and primary reason is that it couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am not the type of person that grew up with the ability to love myself. In fact, it took until long after my first mission trip to learn what it means to love myself, and even longer to actually begin loving myself.
Why? Because it took loving other people to be loved in return to learn to love me.
My very first mission trip turned my life around. I had not been living a Christian life; I was not very loving and I was not very lovable. As an 13 year old contemplating the idea of ending my own life, I went on an urban mission trip as a last-ditch effort to find some sort of purpose for my life–any reason to go on living.
And I did.
It was on that very first trip that I made several discoveries:
- I serve a great and powerful God who made me and loves me, who will never leave me.
- I was doing life wrong, and that I needed to do better.
- The mission field is where I belong.
For one week, it was my sole purpose to love inner city kids and teach them about the love of Jesus. At first, all I saw was a huge socioeconomic gap–by the end of that first trip, I felt more loved and needed than ever before in my life. Having the unconditional love of kids defined by poverty, abuse, trust issues–it is crazy. It made me want to do more, give more, love more. I went back to those kids once a week, as part of a tutoring program, and once a year as part of an annual summer camp for the duration of my high school career. It took a long time to learn to love myself, but the fact of the matter is that I needed to love others first. It’s just how I work. 1 John 4:19 states “We love because he first loved us.” Christ came to earth, lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death to demonstrate his love for us before we loved him.
Loving others before yourself is the most selfless kind of love. It is honest and real and raw, with no agenda. If that isn’t the greatest earthly love, I don’t know what is.
11 days. 17 hours. 42 minutes.