August 22, 2012 (Bound4Life.com) - My neighbor, Mrs. Hummingbird died. I live on the same street that my husband lived on growing up. In fact, he lived next door to Mrs. Hummingbird from the day he was brought home from the hospital till the day he left for college.  Her house was gorgeous. Beautiful roses and bight crepe myrtles frame bright green Bermuda grass in front of her beautiful red brick home. Even her mailbox is gorgeous and looks like her house. I could only imagine how beautiful her things must have been. I had never seen the inside.

I went to the estate sale only to find that the interior was not at all like the bright beautiful exterior. It was somber, dull, and dirtier than I expected. Everything looked really old: not fashionably antique, just sad and unkempt. If I had to use one word to describe it, I would say, neglected.

It got me thinking.  How many neighbors do we really know? How many neighbors have invited us inside? How many neighbors have we invited in?

Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Something is missing. 

I’ve known friends for years who only began opening up to me about abortion in their past since I started writing about life. When they read my words, they saw a friend peeking in a window or knocking on their door and they invited me in. I thank God for windows and doors like that.

Now my eyes are open to the startling reality that I don’t really know my neighbors - the ones down the street and the ones down the pews on Sundays. I recognize so many brightly clad faces on Sundays smiling and singing. I celebrate birthdays and marriages and births and mourn deaths and even pray for the sick… But there are very few whom I actually know. It saddens me that so much of what I consider loving my neighbor is superficial. Much of what I have done or tried to do in love, was mere encouragement to keep exteriors looking good.

As I write these words I imagine my readers. Some of you have pastor’s wives or choir members who cry themselves to sleep every night wondering what color hair their aborted child would have had. Some of you are pastor’s wives crying yourself to sleep at night, but with amazing clothes and hair and smiles on Sundays. You think that no one would understand and that you will be judged or looked down on because of your mistakes, so you think you’re taking one for the team. You think it’s your job to bring the love of Jesus to others while neglecting your own wounds, your own hurts. You think that as long as the exterior is bright, manicured and surrounded with roses, the inside can be neglected.

Jesus said to love others as we love ourselves. That means that if you want to love others, you either have to love yourself or your love will be fake.

I’m not saying get a billboard in town with all your sins listed. God doesn’t even remember your sins! They are blotted out and removed from you as far as the East is from the West! However, as the amazing Dad that He is, He sees your hurt, He sees the tears you cry and He values them, He even keeps them. He is so concerned with your heart that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted.

I am saying, let someone inside. Be healed. Love yourself enough to let someone come genuinely inside so that you are able to genuinely love others. You not only have permission to love yourself, you are commanded to do so.

Jesus showed Thomas His wounds to show him who He is. He wasn’t trying to make a political statement about capital punishment, He just wanted Thomas to know who He is. Jesus loved Himself enough to love Thomas. He loves Himself enough to love us. Wounds did not remove victory from Jesus and they don’t remove victory from us when we share them.

One time I spilled an entire cup of black coffee on beautiful white carpet in my formal living room. I tried to clean it and cover it and even kept the doors to this room closed. Ironically enough it is in the room where I pray every morning. I tried to be the only one with access to this room. Well, my mother-in-law kept coming over with decorating ideas and even brought gifts for this room that I did not want her to see at all because I was embarrassed that I couldn’t get it clean by myself and that I spilled the coffee at all. It turns out she’s known it was there all along and wanted to find a loving way to help me clean it that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  She does not think less of me or think of me less often. She wasn’t trying to get inside to hurt me or make fun of the stain. She wanted to help me clean it and let others come inside to enjoy the amazing room. She even bought me a big rug and said we could buy new carpet.

Jesus said the world will know we are His by the way we love one another. When someone peeks in your window or knocks on your door, let them in. Then you will recognize neglected or stained carpet and knock on doors and peek in windows until someone lets you in to love on them. Love yourself enough to love your neighbors.

Reprinted with permission from Bound4Life.com