One of the first guidelines I was told as a child was to “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”. Of course, I tended to forget all about it when my sister and I were playing dolls and she took years dress I’d been eyeing. And I’m pretty positive I completely erased the idea as I gnashed (yes, gnashed) my teeth at sister, my hands gripping her arm in angry, revving up to let loose and clamp down on that arm in a rage-filled bite. Granted, I was probably only 2 and my sister would have been 3 or 4, but I sure did not want to think about sisterly love at that moment.
As I grew older, I heard the same message from the church – “love your neighbor as yourself”. Being a (relatively) well-mannered youth, I thought I was taking this to heart. Giving much of myself and my heart to others in my life. love them, Love Them, LOVE THEM! It was the cause of great friendships and endless heartaches.
It’s true. Someone did once say that to me. In college, a close friend of mine told me this one day. “Elisa, did you realize your life is a series of near misses?” He laughed, I laughed. At the time, it felt so true. I felt it so much that I wore it like a name tag. Isn’t it clever? Isn’t it funny? Was what I’d tell everyone. I started to engrave it upon my heart. You are a series of near misses. That’s your life story.
A few years later, I was truly feeling the hurt of all things around me. Disapproved by family, jilted in love, shady choices by people I had trusted in the church, friendships dwindling … I was in a pit of self-wallowing and despair. I felt like every effort I made in relationships would fizzle out quicker than a cheap box of matches. If I was trying so desperately to make connections with others, why were they pushing me away? Why would they not show me grace and love?? I have been defined: forever a miss.
I wish I could remember the point everything started to change. Someone had spoke on what it meant about how to truly “love your neighbor as yourself “That that act, it requires you to love yourself first. If I was loving on my neighbors with the love that I lacked for myself, then they were not getting the best I could offer. It wasn’t about being kind and hoping/expecting the same in exchange– it was about knowing that I am loved, bring filled with love, and sharing love with others.
For years I was foolish enough to believe them. Not anymore. Not I. My near misses didn’t define me, I get to define me. I decide what I can fill my heart with. I get to decide what I share with others and how I treat them. I choose to love myself– not that that’s incredibly easy or something I always want, but I still choose it. Because I want to share the best love I can with others. The best me.
Right now, some of that means some big personal changes in my life, challenges that I’m working towards. I hope you are choosing some too! How can I encourage you push forward? How can I help you to see beyond the near misses and redefine yourself as you?