“But Mommy, do you love yourself?”

By: Mary Maddox

From the mouths of babes. “But Mommy do you love yourself?” I will never forget those words and that moment. It happened 20 years ago. I was tucking my daughter Haley into bed and we were having an amazing little conversation.  Amazing because God spoke to me through my four-year-old. 

As she was settling in, we were playing a little game. We were naming all the people we loved. She would say, “I love you, Daddy and Cale” and I would then repeat it.  She reminded me to pray for the old ones. I asked, “who are the old ones?” She answered, “the meals on wheels old ones!” (We delivered food to the shut-ins with Meals on Wheels) 

Wow! she was blowing me away. So much wisdom in this little body. Such innocence and beauty. We repeated who we loved one more time, said our prayers and I told her goodnight. As I approached her bedroom door, she said, “But Mommy! Do you love yourself?” I answered, “Yes, I do”. I then asked her the same question, “Do you love yourself? She giggled like any other four-year-old and said, “of course I do Mommy!” 

I walked down the stairs. I felt numb inside. I knew I couldn’t just put that question away.  Do I love myself? Could I answer that question with the assurance that Haley did?  I remember sitting in the family room, it was quiet. My husband was still at work. I turned to God, I talked to Him. That was a turning point for me, a step on my journey of faith. And it came from a four-year-old.  Of course, it did!   We know what Jesus said… “unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven?” And here were the words of a child asking a question that drew me inside myself.  I knew it was God speaking to me. I knew I had to look deeply into my heart and answer that question honestly.  And the truth for me was that I did need to nurture myself a little more. I had to learn to love myself so that I could fully love my children, my husband, God and everyone around me. I had work to do. 

And now, where to begin.  I began with prayer.  I began by allowing God to be my best friend, my counselor, my confidant, my love.  And it began with noticing my life more honestly.  And then slowly things began to change. I began to change.  It started with taking better care of myself. Slowing down a bit, enjoying the moments…more praying, more loving and more forgiving.   

Now my prayer is a simple one. Something you have heard over and over.  And something that has to be done every day.  Again, and again.  “Lord, help me to let go and let you lead.  Jesus, I trust in you.”  Every day, in letting go and letting God, I become a four-year-old.   Just as Jesus asked…And I find, I can truly say, “Yes Haley, I love myself!” 

Do you love yourself?  A place to begin… 

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