Several years ago at a Bible study, I found myself not engaged at all, when a friend said to me, “Greg, Jesus loves you”. As the rest of the group conversed about that week’s topic, I replied to him, “Shawn, I know He loves me”. He replied once again, “Greg you are not listening to me, Jesus loves you bro”. When he said it to me a third time, I could hear the Spirit of God speak to me the words of Matthew 22:39, “love your neighbor as yourself”. Having my attention, the Lord’s next words to me would forever impact my life! He told me that if I loved my neighbor the way I was loving me, then my neighbor would probably move.
As those words began to penetrate my nearly empty heart, I got up from the study and started a journey that would be far greater than anything I could imagine. I had always pushed toward denying self and doing for others. I mean isn’t that what God wants from me and from you? I knew Matthew 16:24, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Or at least I thought I knew what that verse said. I wanted to please Jesus by saving, rescuing, and helping the world.
I had quoted those words so many times, but had never seen God’s loving hand stretched out to me as one of His children, telling me that I was human too. As a caregiver, everything in my life was always about caring for others. I cared for the church family, my friends, my neighbors, and yes, I cared for my family. I guess caring for me was something that never came to my mind.
About nine years prior to this, at a service where I was being commissioned to go to my first pastorate, a man whom I had never met came up to me and asked if he could share something with me. He simply told me, “a dry well and a dry preacher will pump mud sooner or later”, and that folks would dip from my well and that I better keep my well full. Boy was he ever right! I have come to find it’s true for other caregivers too. If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for others.