Pampered or Perfected
A day spent on the couch reading and being immersed in one of Jean Auel’s epic Earth’s Children novels, getting up only to refresh my Diet Coke, or switch out the Doritos I was munching on for M&M’s to nibble — that used to be my dream day. That’s the way I thought I loved myself, when I “deserved” pampering. But, it doesn’t take long to figure out, that’s not love — that’s indulgence! And, extravagance, while great in the moment, does not fill me with a lasting satisfaction. In fact, it actually leaves me feeling disgusted with myself and useless. Ann Voskamp describes telling her teenage daughter, “Sometimes the short-term Immediate You can’t have immediate gratification so you can give the long-term Ultimate You what is ultimately best.”
James McDonald says it another way: “God’s love is a perfecting love, not a pampering love.” That irritated me when I first heard it because I want to be spoiled; I think things should go my way; I prefer a smooth path with lots of blessings along the way. I’ve learned, much to my disappointment, that emotional growth and confidence occur when we face challenges, when we struggle, when we discipline ourselves to accomplish hard things.
Now, when I consider loving myself, I am intentional about doing the work of being healthy physically and spiritually. These are activities that cultivate peace and harmony in my soul: quality time with trusted friends and family; exercise (as much as I hate it); eating for health, not comfort; and whenever practical, time spent in nature. Most importantly, I am deliberate about incorporating spiritual disciplines into my routine. I trust that transforming my heart to align with His happens through practice. Only then does the work I do, the love I show, the support I offer, and the resources I share produce fruit for the Kingdom of God.
One more thing that I have found to be life-giving is cultivating gratitude. There is no other practice that keeps me in the moment and aware of God’s presence. It is the most effective way for me to live in joy.
Am I faithful about following these guidelines daily? I wish that were true, but my focus is one of progress, not perfection. When I stumble along the path, I am reminded to be generous with forgiveness to myself, just as I would be with a loved one.
What brings nourishment to your soul? What activities could you engage in during this season to foster love of yourself?
Lynn Karneboge is a retired primary school teacher. She and Rich are the parents of two grown sons, Aaron and Bryan. She enjoys reading, gardening, and eating out with friends.