There’s an interesting trend I’ve noticed over the last several years, specifically relating to the validity and importance of self-care. Of course, there is a wealth of information about self-care in our media, social feeds, mental health services, etc. However, there has also been some increasing volume against self-care, particularly in some of my faith-based circles. So, what’s going on?
Well, one influence is that many things are polarized right now. We don’t hang out in the gray much, we’re either for or against things, particularly online. That unhappy social trend aside, it seems the main frustration is with the word/focus on “self.” Especially in faith and service, our job is to “deny thyself and take up our cross” (Matt. 16:24) “be more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35) “not looking to your own interests but to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4) “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another” (Gal. 5:13) and many, many more. As a Christ-follower I get it and, I’m with you. Our job, as people of faith, is to serve others for His glory.
AND (here’s where that non-polarized, gray-area, contextual-whole-picture-thing comes in). Self-care can be (and I would suggest is) a valuable part of faith that can actually contribute, rather than diminish, our ability to serve others. Here’s a minor snapshot from my own regular, daily life…
This summer we were gifted a trampoline from some friends. Being the mother of a (very) pale red-headed daughter, I put that trampoline in the middle of three trees, hoping the shade would protect her skin as much as possible. Fast forward to a cold, fall, rainy day and there my kids are, jumping with delight in all the leaves that have now fallen in our trampoline, crushing them into smaller and smaller wet, sticky pieces with each bounce. Unaware of their condition, I was on the phone with my sister when they ran through the house, dropping gooey minuscule leaf pieces everywhere they went.
There were exactly two reasons I didn’t lose my stuff that day as they created a “celebration of fall” through nearly every room: 1) It’s not cool to holler at your kids when you’re on the phone and 2) earlier that day I had engaged in several practices specific to my design as God’s kid that filled me up to pour out to my wet, Loch Ness monster-ed children. Here’s what those practices looked like.
- Went for a walk because exercise blesses our bodies, nature restores me, and I’m an introvert. Silence increases my capacity to serve.
- The hubs had helped me clean so the leaves weren’t falling on toys or in piles of clothes but rather, just on the carpet. Easier cleanup, less frustration, all because I had asked for help the day before rather than trying to be super Suzy servant.
- I’d had time in the Word (did you know that is self-care?!) that helped me center myself and recognize the moment to love and laugh with my kids rather than focus on the mess.
As I processed the scene with my husband that night, I reflected on how much the “self-care” earlier that day had helped contribute to a positive response (because let’s be honest, it doesn’t always go that way). Self-care does serve the self, yes, but that’s okay. That “self” is God’s kid, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). And, we can’t do those works very well if we are constantly working against our design. In our limited human ability, we will (and often do) burn out not because we are serving too much but because we are serving without fuel. Fuel that can come through self-care practices.
So, if you need to rename it or reframe it (self-other-care? serve-care?) go right ahead. But, don’t stop taking care of the “self” God created. If Jesus took time away to pray, nap, sleep, and have quality alone time with friends while living out the purpose for which God made Him, that’s a good model for us too. When self-care is aimed at filling us up in Him so we can pour out, it is not only self-serving—it is others-focused too. The way it’s designed to be.
May we take good, good care of ourselves for the purpose of taking good, good care of God’s people (including you 😉 )