It’s a concept that has flooded our culture and even my own thought processes and practices. And when I indulge in the $6 coffee or the new cardigan from Old Navy, I sometimes whisper under my breath, “treat yourself.” Because every now and then we should, in fact, treat ourselves. But today, as I sit and watch my youngest climb the furniture and terrorize the puppy, I’m struck with how the occasional Starbucks or frivolous spending does very little to actually propagate loving myself.
My life doesn’t look like I thought it would five years ago. In fact, I wear titles that I never dreamed I’d don. Titles that I’d always judged so harshly in others… assuming they’d done something to deserve the scarlet letter pinned to their chest. And that’s how it feels. Like a giant, red “D” is pasted to my forehead, announcing to the world that my marriage failed. That I am no longer a wife but an ex-wife and my children will now have to explain their parentage using the verbiage of “step” and “half.”
And the shame of it all! Shame that has tried to strangle and disqualify and bind and gag the voice that calls me worthy and beloved.
In James 2:13, the Word tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement. A sentiment I found so very hard to understand several years ago. The idea of God as King and Ruler and Master was so easy to fathom. He breathed the stars. His might evident in every ocean wave. I had even heard it said that God is as merciful as He is just. An idea I would have trumpeted for all the world if I hadn’t encountered the heart of His grace and mercy. Because while I’ve known Him for over half of my life, I’m just now getting to know Him. Knowing Him in the capacity of father and daughter is so much different than that of master and servant.
Not a license
Please. Hear my heart. God’s mercy and grace is not a license to sin, as discussed in Romans 6:14 and again in Jude 1:4. But if we ever had the ability to earn our way into heaven, I’m certain the cross and all of its violent glory would not have been necessary. And while some might believe that forgiveness simply excuses your sin and releases you from responsibility, I have discovered that love does not simply shore up my iniquity. It invites me into a relationship where to sin against the one I worship not only breaks His heart but mine as well.
And that’s it. This life-altering truth that shifted the way that I saw myself and in turn, others. After all, the greatest commandment was to love each other as we love ourselves.
The crimson robe of grace and forgiveness
Sometimes self-love looks like letting yourself off the hook. When Jesus confronted the woman found in adultery, this was His response,
“…I certainly do not condemn you. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” -Romans 8:11
As far as we know, that’s exactly what she did. And that’s what I’m trying to do. While there was no great iniquity or adultery to speak of in my own case, just miscommunication and little foxes, this crimson letter is still one that tries to define me. But mercy says that the only label I wear is that of “His.” And when the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my failures or my mess ups, but the perfect blood of Jesus. And if that’s good enough for Him, it’s enough for me too.
So if you were looking for permission, here it is. Treat yourself. Buy the shoes. Wear the lipstick. But more importantly, love yourself. Give mercy her triumph over judgment. Go and sin no more. Dance. Shout. And instead of your scarlet letter, whatever that letter may be, wear the crimson robe of grace and forgiveness.
Trust me. It looks good on you.
Read also: The Judge who paid the price