–by Elizabeth Hunter

The first day of summer—the longest day of the year—felt like the longest day of my life. Years of stress had taken a toll in the form of lost sleep, lost weight and lost relationships. Yet I was gaining much-needed perspective. You might call it a change of heart, a change of mind or even repentance.

Women, especially moms, feel responsible for juggling many tasks and putting the needs of others first. I had it bad. Sometimes I felt I couldn’t refuse, even when I knew complying wasn’t good for my own peace of mind. “Well, someone has to do it,” I’d tell myself. When you’re stretched paper-thin, feeling unappreciated only makes things worse.

I was doing so much, but it barely scratched the surface. I needed to repent and turn toward taking care of myself so I could better care for others. As Meghan Johnston Aelabouni writes, real repentance “transforms how we see and treat ourselves and how we see and treat others  (p. 23).”

Martha Stortz (p. 30) shares how measuring one’s worth by a daily checklist is not only “a grinding, anxious way to live,” but idolatry. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily living that we forget that these are tools that remind us of our commitments as caretakers. We do not belong to our tools. We belong to God—God who loves us perfectly not because of anything we’ve done, but because we are God’s children.

We can find comfort in the depth of Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). We tend to forget the “as yourself.” According to Jesus, we should want our neighbors to have the same good things we want for ourselves. Jesus’ words also assume that it is good to love yourself and that loving yourself teaches you how to care deeply for neighbors.

“Imagine what we could do if we were freed from the fear of God’s wrath and our own inadequacies,” Aelabouni writes (p.27). “Imagine how things might be different if all the anger and the fear in our hearts was replaced by love. This kind of love changes things: not for you and me alone, but for others, too, and for the world in which we live.”

I feel as though I’m perched above a precipice, afraid to fall, ready to go deeper. My friends, who have experienced their own tough times and their own realizations, surround me with hopes and prayers for my future. They remind me that I belong to God and to them. The funny thing is, looking over the changed landscape of my life, their prayers look almost like wings. That’s a good thing, because it is time for me, for all of us, to soar.

This article is excerpted from the September 2018 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.