"'What requires more faith,' asks Bible teacher Derek Prince, 'to work or to rest?' Surprisingly the latter is usually true. Resting - especially when there's lots of work to do - forces us to depend on God. It reminds us that all our energy and effort are ultimately insufficient. It makes us lean on the invisible rather than relying on the concrete."
Disciplined for Life: Steps to Spiritual Strength, By John Loftness & C.J. Mahoney
"So what's new?" my father asks, like normal. We are sitting in the living room of the house where I grew up, watching Lincoln play with Legos.
"You know, I've been reading and thinking a lot about self-care," I reply, totally baiting.
He leans forward, brows furrowed - settling comfortably into his thinking position.
Pleased at his interest, I gear up for one of our philosophical talks.
"Well, it's the practice of maintaining your mental, physical and emotional well-being - and it can take many forms," I explain. "So the rise in popularity of adult coloring books - that is a form of self-care for some. Or therapy. Or working out. It's all about keeping yourself in a balanced, healthy state."
Moments pass before he responds. I can literally see the wheels turning in his mind.
"But, I mean, isn't that ... normal?"
And this is why I love my father. He has the mind of an engineer and never holds back the logical conclusion. His question is a right and good one. Is taking care of ourselves just an instinctive form of self-preservation? Why do we need to be told to care for ourselves?
Because we're far too human.
Motherhood: The Sworn Enemy of Self-Care
I read a phenomenal blog post last week about a mother of two having a meltdown on a day her husband was coming home late from work. I could absolutely relate to the desperation she describes as she sits on her floor with her kids (and dog!) wreaking havoc around her.
But perhaps the most relatable part of the article to me, is how she describes her pre-baby self:
"She knew nothing (Well, perhaps we can give her a little credit. Let's say she knew a tad, a bit.) about self-denial. She was well versed in self-care because her self was the only person she had to care for around the clock." Says Who, By April Hoss, Published March 28, 2016
Surely, mothers everywhere can relate.
In my pre-baby years, I prided myself on being low maintenance. I was never a "regular trips to the salon" kind-of-girl. Or a "fresh mani/pedi" girl. Or a "something new every week" girl. I wore little makeup, had (and still have!) natural hair and tried not to take myself, or life for that matter, too seriously.
And then something strange happened. After the birth of my son, I found myself fighting like a mad woman for the moments when I could slip away and do something ... anything (!) for myself. My mother and my husband helped and encouraged me to get time alone, but instead of liberation, I was often met with guilt for being away, or even wanting to be away. (So much for motherly instincts ...)
I craved me-time, but true self-care, when it actually happened, was rare. All my care was now devoted to this new extension of myself, named Lincoln.
Everyone told me my feelings were normal. But no one told me why.
God's Purpose for Self-Care (Rest) & Why Your Motives Matter
Jesus practiced self-care.
I arrive at this epiphany while questioning whether Christianity, at its core, is at odds with self-care. Surely, there is at least some tension here. Scripture goes to great lengths to emphasize the care of others over self. Christ-followers are admonished over and over to deny ourselves and follow Christ (Luke 9:23), to, seek the good of our neighbors over ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:24), and to spend ourselves on behalf of those in need (Isaiah 58:10).
So is there any room for meditation and green tea frappucinos and face masks in my faith? I'm joking, but just a little.
What I need to know is this - Am I being selfish when I sneak away from my hubby and son (I'm currently hiding in our bedroom to finish this post) for me time after a long and draining day, especially when that's time I could be using to serve my family? Am I unfaithful when I skip a serve opportunity or small group at church, or church altogether because I'm exhausted from a stressful week? Am I wrong when I ignore text messages from friends because I don't have the mental capacity to think or respond (which I'm soooo good for)?
Am I supposed to be able to do, be and handle it all?
And then I remember how Jesus stole away, and often. The crowds were always wanting him, pulling on him, draining him. He made time for His work (ministry), but he also frequently withdrew to spend time alone. To hang out with his inner circle. To pray. To visit friends. To eat. To REST.
And herein lies the Christian ethic. We take care of our selves not for our selves' sake. Not for peace of mind. Not to achieve zen. Not to look our best. We take care of ourselves so that we can serve others effectively and from a cheerful heart for the glory of God.
That's what Jesus did. And after all, He's the boss.
How My Need for Rest Glorifies God
In my younger years, I didn't recognize my need for self-care/rest because my entire life was about self-care and (here's the kicker) I didn't even know it. In my eyes, self-care was synonymous with pampering and I wasn't a pamper-er. But I was a "do whatever I want, whenever I want" person. Which means I was constantly caring for me.
In my post-motherhood years, my margin for self became so narrow it was almost non-existent. My son needed me constantly, and my guilt about how well I was performing in my new role kept me from articulating my needs and following through on them. I felt so selfish for wanting me time. It was a psychological battle I fought and lost on a daily basis.
It is only in this current season that I fully realize and acknowledge this truth: I am a poor version of Christina when I don't practice self-care. I look worn down. I feel bad about myself, and about life in general. And I have no time, energy or desire to serve anyone.
Like Jesus, I need time away. To rest. To recuperate. And it doesn't mean I'm selfish. Or that I'm failing.
In fact, it means just the opposite: I'm human. Created with batteries that drain and need to be recharged. Created dependent to remind me of my dependence on a sovereign Creator.
Self-care in and of itself isn't selfish. It's Biblical. It's good stewardship. And it's necessary.
Go get choo some :-)