“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Don't Forget To Love Yourself

Recently, I have been re-reading books that have meant something to me, on my spiritual / religious journey. And one of these is Mister God, This Is Anna, which I first read over 30 years ago. It is another slim book - only 190 pages - beautifully illustrated by Papas, which adds to its enchantment. Set in the East End of London in the 1930s, it tells the story of a remarkable child called Anna, who sees the world differently, and who has an intimate and wonderful relationship with Mister God. It is told from the viewpoint of Fynn, who finds the five-year-old Anna homeless on the streets, and brings her home to join the family. For the three and a half years before her premature death, she revolutionises his thinking about God and human beings in relation to God, and about the world we live in.

One of my favourite passages records a conversation with the local vicar, who must have found her hard to cope with:

"'Do you believe in God?' 'Yes.'
'Do you know what God is?' 'Yes.'
'What is God then?' 'He's God!'
'Do you go to church?' 'No.'
'Why not?' 'Because I know it all!'
'What do you know?' 'I know to love Mister God and to love people and cats and dogs and spiders and flowers and trees' and the catalogue went on, 'with all of me.'

There's nothing much you can do in the face of that kind of accusation, for that's what it amounted to. Anna had bypassed all the non-essentials and distilled centuries of learning into one sentence - 'And God said love me, love them, and love it, and don't forget to love yourself.'"

This week the shops are full of red and pink - Valentine's cards, Valentine's chocolates, Valentine's drink, Valentine's perfume, Valentine's cuddly toys. It is the one time of the year when love, particularly romantic love, is almost deified, and the many people who are not in a romantic relationship, or who have just lost somebody near and dear to them, are made to feel lacking, and sad, and out of it. Like Christmas, there is only one media message, and if your particular circumstances don't fit, it can be a very painful time.

So this week, I'm going to try to take on board the last bit of Anna's advice "Don't forget to love yourself." We are all human, we are all children of God, we are all worthy of love. And we all need to learn to love and accept our whole selves, not just the bits we allow other people to see.

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