“Self-care” was never in my vocabulary until the last couple years. Having been a caretaker since the age of three, it was a concept I had heard of, but did not understand. I was completely at a loss to think of how to do this, or find a reason to need to. If I did anything resembling self-care, I felt guilty. Besides, what an incredible waste to spend time soaking in a bubble bath, buying flowers for myself, doing a craft, going away for the weekend, having fun, or doing anything that was just for me! Seriously, aren’t Christians supposed to be constantly, every waking minute of everyday (that is if you are such a weakling you need sleep!), selflessly giving and helping their family and others? Isn’t this what Jesus did?
Having grown up feeling guilty for ever thinking of myself at all, the concept that caring for myself, resting, relaxing, and having some fun was actually biblical was a little bit hard to imagine. Slowly I have come to realize not only is it biblical, but God Himself gave us an example.
God built rest right into our lives when He created the Sabbath at the end of creation week, the seventh day. (See Genesis 2:3) Even He wanted to take a break and just enjoy His creation and the people He had created, His new companions. We also see examples in the gospels of Jesus taking time away from the crowds and getting his disciples away as well. Jesus needed the break to be alone, renew His relationship with His father, and rest. (See Mark 6:30-45) Jesus also took time out to celebrate a wedding. (See John 2:1-12) Additionally, he took time out to rest and spend time with his friends in Bethany. (See Luke 10:38-42)
Another example is when Moses was wearing himself out leading the people of Israel. When his father-in-law saw what was happening, he counseled Moses to share the load and not try to do everything. (See Exodus 18:14-27) While he did not tell him to go on vacation, he did urge him to not work himself into an early grave. There are also times in the Israelite’s journey when God took them to a place and let them stay for a lengthy period of time just to rest. He knows we need downtime.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus states that the second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This certainly implies we already love ourselves. For me, maybe it should read, “Love yourself as you do your neighbor.” If we love ourselves, then we want to take care of ourselves which includes rest, fun, and just finding ways to energize ourselves. We are also told in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that we are the “temple of God” and should “honor God with our bodies.” This would also mean we need to take care of ourselves physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.
So how do we take care of ourselves?
I hear you saying, “I already shower every day, brush my teeth, and eat healthy food. What more is there?” For those of you who struggle with this concept like I have, it is tough to imagine how to do what appears to be a simple task. It seems like everyone mentions bubble baths when talking about self-care. If you like, take one often. However, I am not a bubble bath kind of girl! It has been a journey for me to discover activities I enjoy that are part of taking care of me.
Kayaking is an activity that relaxes me and energizes me. Sometimes I do it with friends, sometimes alone, but always with God. Swimming, walking, or most any exercise is very relaxing and an important part of taking care of myself physically and emotionally. It gives me great happiness. Another activity I have not done recently but I find relaxing is playing music–the flute or piano are instruments that totally engross me as I play and all the pressures of life fade. To me these activities are restful, fun, and often bring me closer to God.
Previously, while I was giving and giving and giving, I also felt like I was taking and taking and taking everything I could get from the few people in my life who were giving to me. Relationships which are healthy are not like this. There is give and take, usually fairly equal over time. After having consistently taken care of myself for awhile, I feel for the first time in my life I finally have enough to give away to be able to have healthy relationships with people–including give and take. One cannot pour from an empty pitcher!
While we are called as Christians to give of our time, treasure, and talents, we are also called to take care of ourselves. If we shorten our lives or simply do not allow our pitchers to be filled, we will not have as much to give away as God intended us to have. Could the parable of the talents apply to this? Is self-care actually investing? I think it is.
Lord of the broken, Please show me how to take care of myself as you have asked me to do. I want to be a blessing to others and I realize I cannot bless others as much if I do not follow Your plan to care for myself. Give me ideas when I lack none. Bless my efforts and fill my pitcher so I can be a blessing to others in the way You want me to be.
(Remember, we do not earn salvation, it is a free gift. I cannot save myself by doing. Jesus already paid and nothing I do will pay Him back.)