This idea is something I have been thinking about for a long time and have only now begun to figure out how to put it into words. But it might take a few paragraphs so be patient with me.
“Love Me Just As I Am”
There is this idea that our husbands, boyfriends, family members, and friends should “love us just as we are.” We all long to feel accepted and loved. This is a human need that we cannot deny. Yet, I have heard women request and even demand this sentiment, “Love me just as I am, or else….”
Let’s say you have a beloved family member who is addicted to nicotine. They go outside every few hours for a smoke. They may be starting to experience negative impacts on their health because of this damaging habit. They say they want to quit but they never make any active steps towards change. Do you love them as they are? Yes, you love them and their smoking doesn’t take away from who they are to you as family. But can you genuinely say you support their smoking? Of course not. We all know the dangers of smoking, not only to the smoker but to anyone breathing in secondhand smoke. It is possible to love someone deeply and disagree with their choices or their lifestyle.
Let’s say you have a friend who is addicted to cocaine. You’ve watched them disappear for months at a time. You see the toll the addiction is starting to take on their body. You’ve tried to offer help – money for rehab opportunities, a place to spend the night, even a ride to places they need to go. You love them but you are watching their choices ruin their life, literally. Would you say you love them as they are? This is a little more extreme because cocaine use usually leads to death. You know their heart and you care for them. But you can’t say you want them to ever touch cocaine again. This doesn’t mean you hate them, it really means that you love them enough to see beyond their poor choices into the potential they have.
Okay, let’s hit a little closer to home. Let’s say you have a friend who is very overweight. Or you have a friend who appears to be in good physical shape but is addicted to food. You watch them consistently choose to harm their bodies with their diet choices. The friend who is overweight wears her choices on her sleeve, but the skinny friend’s choices are more hidden. Either way, their health is being impacted by what they are eating or drinking. Does this make you love them any less? Of course not. But should we love our friends here “just as they are?”
I would say YES AND… if they do not want to discuss their health or diet choices with you, then the door is closed. But if they open up and share they’d like to make a difference in their health, then it’s time to help!
Be A Safe Place But Not Afraid of Truth
I want to be a safe place for any of my friends who struggle with an addiction to anything. But I will not stand by and enable them to remain complacent if I know they want to change, especially if they welcome me into their private world.
There is this paradigm in the Christian life that we are being molded and shaped in His image and therefore being changed and shifted as we go. But then we are also accepted in the Beloved, loved deeply by God, and grace is heaped abundantly upon our heads. So I think it’s more about where we are at in the moment and what our hearts need to hear than picking one over the other to live our lives by.
For example, when a friend comes to you in tears, sharing how someone shamed her for her body or her mind or personality, this is the time to remind her of her infinite worth in the eyes of Jesus. To put an arm around her and reassure her of her beauty and value.
But then when another friend comes to you and says she just can’t get a handle on her eating habits and she weighs more than she wants to, this is the time to encourage her to do something about it. Don’t say “well, I love you just as you are.” She is ready to make a change in her life – honor her confession and support her! Don’t just throw this moment away by patting her on the head.
Accepted Yet Always Called Higher
We don’t have to stay where we are – whether it means being reassured of our identity or challenged to do something new.
Let’s love each other as we are while not shying away from the truth – we all have changes to make, new territory to conquer, and we shouldn’t have to do it alone.