How can we love others,
If we do not love ourselves?
Our spouses, children,
Our sisters and brothers,
How can we love others,
Until our good God delves?
Eleven years ago this very day, October 4, 2003, the very worst day of my life to date, was the day, I, for the first time, seriously contemplated suicide. I won’t go into the sordid details, because that would, I have no doubt, disrespect others. Suffice to say, if the news I received twelve days previously didn’t rock my world, the news I received on the day in question shook my world like an earthquake. Add to the fact that I went three or four days without sleep, I then had a complete emotional breakdown on October 8. Anxiety and depression were in full swing. These were within a continuously long series of rock bottom days. That October was a horrendous month. November 2003 wasn’t much better. This October, on the other hand, is its polar opposite; I live with far more hope than I could have ever dreamt of back then.
Having been blindsided by marital separation and divorce, I finally woke up to myself. God had brought critical information about me, in the context of my family, to my attention and I could no longer ignore it. I needed to repent. And such repentance wasn’t a once-off activity; it continues today. The Christian life is a penitent life. We are always trying to outdo ourselves in love. Others must be the benefactors.
I was unable to do this only because of the lack of experience of one fact: knowing, for the first time in my life, God’s unique love for me, his child, helped me love myself. And only as I was able to love myself was I able to love others appropriately – my children, and, of course, my former wife. Before the epiphany of my salvation I could not love myself and, therefore, I didn’t understand how to love others in a sustainable way.
My former wife deserved a better husband than I was when I was married to her. I was not an abusive husband, but I certainly was inattentive, and, at times, neglectful. Spouses should only need to put up with that for a time. I missed the mark in terms of love. I didn’t love her enough because I didn’t love myself enough deep down.
Some people might say “Why didn’t you change the way you were while you had the chance?” This is where the chicken or the egg comes in. I couldn’t possibly love anyone the way they deserved to be loved until I met Jesus and experienced the empowering to love of the Holy Spirit. And the only way I could have met Jesus was to have my life crushed, because that is the only way God was getting my attention. I had too much pride, was too ambitious, had unreconciled anger, and lacked woefully in the area of self-control. So, until I could see it was too late I would not have been prepared to turn my life upside down; which I did the moment the marriage was over.
Sometimes we need to be shaken up. And praise God if we respond.
But sometimes the consequences of our past actions in the flesh remain, despite all our good intent for the present and future.
Inevitably we will need to miss the mark in areas of our lives before we learn the lessons God has for us. It’s not the end of the world. God can shine hope upon every hopeless situation. Our only appropriate mindset is the best is yet to come.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.