The apostle Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4: 12).
This week my son, Kerry, shared this somewhat humorous anecdote with me. He was walking along the street when he saw a one-legged man in a wheelchair rolling himself at high speed on the roadway.
“What’s wrong with that? People move through traffic in wheelchairs all the time.”
Then Kerry said something that was really strange—the man was traveling backward on a very busy road. A motorist stopped and offered the man a ride, but he refused. Kerry said he went about his business and soon forgot about the man until he saw him again that afternoon, once more rolling backward on the street.
As an author and a therapist, several conjectures came to mind: the man was obviously in a hurry. Maybe he had a doctor’s appointment; maybe he was trying to catch the bus; maybe it was easier for him to go backward than forward. After puzzling over it for a little while, none seemed to make sense. Eventually I concluded he was just mentally ill and took pleasure in what he was doing, and maybe one day he would end up in the pages of one of my stories.
Kerry, who is not a therapist, came up with a unique answer to the puzzle: the man loved himself.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes,” Kerry insisted. “He had a happy look on his face. His disability didn’t mean anything to him. He just loves himself.”
“Well, I suppose so,” I reluctantly agreed.
What do you think? Can a man with one leg, rolling himself backward in a wheelchair love himself?
Loving oneself is possible whether you have one leg or two, whether you are driving a wheelchair or a SUV, whether people stare at you or not. Loving oneself has nothing to do with being conceited or narcissistic. It simply means that you are content with the body you are in, the house you are in, the family you are in, and yes, even the job you are in.
Does that mean you should never try to improve yourself? You will never try to be healthier, have a better home or a better job? Of course not. What it means is that while you are in that wheelchair, that little old house and that minimum-wage job, you do the best you can. You take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, take proper care of your home and give that job all you’ve got.
There are many people who seem to have it all. They are the envy of us lesser mortals, but they are not content and they certainly do not love themselves. Oh, they take care of themselves, go to the gym or the spa every day, wear designer clothes, drive the most luxurious cars, dine in the finest restaurants, but they are not content.
If Kerry had asked the man in the wheelchair if he loves himself, he may have said yes, but I think he would have meant he is content with his lot in life. And if he is, then we should be too. Live each day knowing that God loves you just as you are—fat/ thin, tall/ short, rich/poor, black/ white. And because of that we can be content.