The theme of this year for me has centered around one main idea: manhood. More than ever before, I have been asking questions about the man I want to be, as well as who I don’t want to be. I have had dreams of the type of husband and father and leader I will become. As my curiosity stirs, I keep coming back to the idea that I want to be marked by love, marked by the very same love that Jesus showed us.

A love that is not self-seeking, but pure.

A love that speaks the truth.

A love that rebuilds and redeems.

A perfect love that casts out all fear.

A love for those who oppose what I believe is true.

A love that stands up for all that is good and Godly.

An ongoing, overcoming, unashamed, reckless, not always pretty, Jesus-driven love.

I seek that now. I long to live that out fully, but something has always felt missing, like I was missing something with how I loved. It wasn’t until recently that God opened up my eyes through a piece of scripture that I had recited hundreds of times.

Straight out of high school, I moved to a Christian camp and went through their yearlong discipleship program. Before every meal, all the students and staff would pray the Shema, a traditional Jewish prayer based out of Deuteronomy 6:4, but we would say it the same way Jesus said it in the New Testament. It would go like this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” God recently gave me a revelation that loving yourself was just as important as loving your neighbor and loving God. So I am currently on that journey of learning to love who I am.

By no means do I claim to have it all figured out, but I like to think that I am moving in the right direction. I realized that I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to live up to the expectations of others. I realized that every decision and feeling I had was tied in with what others thought of me and it was not a good place to stay. I'm now starting to let myself discover who I was before I was told who I was supposed to be. Loving myself looks a lot like allowing myself to be loved. It looks a lot like receiving love, both from others and from God. It means pressing into community and vulnerability more, not just to give and invest, but also to receive and enjoy. It means knowing that your self-worth is not directly dependent on the things you do or the words you say. What you do does not define who you are, but rather who you are should define everything that you do. You are not the sum of your brightest accomplishments and your biggest mistakes. Instead, you are a child of God, a co-heir with Christ, the Father’s masterpiece, made in His image. You are chosen. You are forgiven. You have hope. You have been given grace. You have His Spirit living inside you. The victory has already been won. Your future is set. Your identity is secure. You are loved.

Resting in that, living and leading from that place, is what I had been missing.

As I get ready for the new year, I seek to diligently pursue Christ. I want to continue getting to know Jesus with my heart, not just my head. I want to love others the same way. And because they're all connected, I need to continue to learn to love myself.

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