In the Spiritual Discipline of Self-Care (Part 1)

Okay … right up front … I am NOT an expert in self-care!  I am learning right alongside you—realizing that self-care is not self-ish … learning how to prioritize my own needs … and perhaps the hardest, figuring out what those needs actually are!

Men, in general, seem to be better at self-care. They attend gyms at a higher rate than women, spend five hours more a week in leisure activities (TV, recreation, etc.), spend 6-8 hours less than women doing housework, and 2-6 hours less in childcare. These are not meant to be derogatory statements, just facts … facts that may simply highlight the need for women to start giving priority to their own well-being in addition to the care they give others.

However, adding self-care to my “To Do List” just feels like more work. And I don’t have time for MORE work!

Self-care is a hot topic these days. If you Google self-care, you’ll get over 32 million results! And while some of the self-care ideas suggested may be helpful, somehow, they also seem superficial … thin. Things like “Build a list of quotes from blog posts that encourage you.” “Create a music playlist of songs that make you happy.” “Eat a good balance of protein, complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats at each meal.”

I’ve made lists like that, probably you have too.

1. Put flowers beside my bed.

2. Go outside for a daily walk.

3. Eat healthy.

I start out strong. Determined that this time I will care for myself. But pretty soon … well, you know how it goes … something else … or someone else … always needs my time and attention.  Their needs eclipse mine.  And I, like most women, staunchly put my needs and desires aside and never quite get around to my well-intentioned list.

Until … until I get angry and exasperated over something very minor. Or cry and moan to my husband that no one is pulling their weight around the house, I’m doing all the work, and I’m exhausted! Or lately I’ve started thinking, “Maybe my life would be saner if I were a minimalist” … and I become a regular at the Goodwill donation door! 

These self-care ideas, they’re not bad. Many of them are, in fact, good ideas. We should eat healthy and get outside.

But these suggestions—these recommendations—they’re not enough.

Not deep enough.

We have probably all been taught that we can’t take care of others (e.g. family, friends, work) unless we take care of ourselves. It’s the old airplane “Put your own oxygen mask on first…” 

And others recite the order by which we should prioritize our lives: “Jesus, Others, You … that spells JOY,” which elicits shame rather than altruism.

Or if you’d like a full-sized guilt-trip, there’s an internet article out there (although inaccurate, but we’ll get into that later) telling you, “Jesus thought of others before He thought of Himself. He poured Himself out and gave Himself away. If you want to follow Jesus’ example…think about the needs of others and place them before your own. Placing others first is characteristic of a servant of God.”

That’s enough to make you tear up your Self-Care List and throw it in the trash!

But is that really the reason to care for ourselves … so we can care for others?

Somehow that seems a bit too co-dependent. But how do you disagree? Arguing statements like those just make you seem selfish—even un-Christian. 

So, let’s take a quick look at the life of Jesus.  Did He really ignore His own needs? Always put others first? Pour Himself out—empty—for the sake of others?

Early in his account Luke gives us three examples of Jesus’ self-care—His self-attentiveness. Luke tells us Jesus went out to an isolated place (Luke 4:42).  He left the demands and the crowds to be alone. Perhaps to breathe. Possibly for some quiet.  Conceivably to get His perspective—His mission back into focus. Maybe to talk with God. We don’t know for sure; we just know He left to be alone.  

So here goes …

SELF-CARE LIST

  1. Spend time alone.

Researchers tell us the benefits of alone time: a) You replenish your energy stores. b) You have time for reflection. c) The need for external validation is reduced.

The Spiritual Discipline of “Solitude and Silence” is the first lesson we’ll take a deeper look into soon, as well as have a practice session.

Luke goes on to tell us that when the crowds realized Jesus had gone, they searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they BEGGED him not to leave them (Luke 4:42). But Jesus explained to the begging crowd He had other things on His agenda … other towns … other people. Luke tells us Jesus left that town and continued to travel around…

Worlds Without End
by Greg Olsen

Think about this a minute. The night before, Jesus had healed everyone no matter what their diseases were (Luke 4:40).  News like that spreads fast. The next morning there were no doubt people in that crowd in need of healing. Yet Jesus walked away. He left them … wanting … empty-handed. Why? Did He realize He couldn’t do it all? Was healing not the main reason He had come?

But, still, they were begging Him to stay!

Ever have someone beg you to do something? It’s hard to say No. Sometimes it’s easier to give in and say Yes, even when you don’t want to?

Unlike the it’s-my-responsibility-to-make-everyone-happy messages we give ourselves, Jesus did not feel responsible for taking care of everyone’s needs. Remember, this is God we’re talking about here! This is our model for life on earth! We can add two things to our list from this story…

  1. I am not responsible to care for everyone who comes to me with a want or need.
  2. Know and prioritize my calling.

So, until our next time together when we’ll continue our exploration of Jesus and His self-care, try exploring self-care on your own with some self-attentiveness questions. Spend some time with yourself and God looking deeper.

Be curious about your feelings. Wonder about your thoughts and reactions. Sit with them before God. Ask God these questions and listen for the answer.

And because the best self-care is placing ourselves into God’s care, you might try some alone time … just you and God.

Blessings to you, my friend, as we travel this road of self-care together.


What self-care strategies have you had success with? Share what you’ve learned with the rest of us!

Want to pass on some care?… Share this post with a friend!


Notes:
They attend gyms at a higher rate Retrieved 9/14/20 from: https://www.creditdonkey.com/gym-membership-statistics.html
…spend five hours more a week… Retrieved 9/14/20 from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/10/another-gender-gap-men-spend-more-time-in-leisure-activities/
Or if you’d like a full-sized guilt-trip Retrieved 9/14//20 from: https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/galleries/6-ways-to-follow-jesus-example-of-serving-others.aspx
Researchers tell us the benefits of alone time… Retrieved 9/14/20 from: https://www.thelawofattraction.com/happens-enjoy-alone/#:~:text=8%20Benefits%20Of%20Being%20Alone%201%20You%20Replenish,Validation%20Reduces.%20…%204%20Your%20Independence%20Increases.%20

Images:
Lead Picture: In the World Not of the World. Artist: Greg Olsen. Retrieved 9/15/20 from: http://www.gregolsen.com
Final Picture: Worlds Without End. Artist: Greg Olsen. Retrieved 9/15/20 from: http://www.gregolsen.com

5 thoughts on “In the Spiritual Discipline of Self-Care (Part 1)

  1. What a fantastic question, Peggy! I would articulate the difference this way … When I think about my calling, I think about what God has specifically put on my heart to do. First, is our call to be transformed into the image of Christ … to become intimate with God. And that is a life-long journey. Next, in my life personally, right now my calling is helping women know their true value and worth in God’s eyes (thus this blog among other things). Several years ago my calling was more centered on being a mom … but as children grow into adult, that calling changes, it’s no longer full-time. On the other hand, when I think of “an invitation from God” I am thinking more daily and even situational. For example, if I’m having a hard time in a relationship, or where I’m living, or even in a diet … I can ask God, “What is your invitation for me in this?” And I’m going to hear things that will be about my own transformation … like God showing me that I’ve been making my children an idol in my life, putting too much of my sense of value and even mental peace based on my relationships with them. It’s an invitation for freedom, growth, and increasing intimacy with God.
    Hoping that makes sense … come back at me if it doesn’t or you have more questions.
    Thanks for being a part!!
    Arnell

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    1. Hi again Arnell, Are you saying a calling is more long-term commitment/ministry/responsibility while an invitation is a current “stirring” with a possible change in direction? Thanks again!

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      1. Thank you, Peggy, for continuing to wrestle with this … it’s important stuff! 😀

        A “calling,” in my understanding, is a larger direction/focus … where your heart meets the world’s need … a passion God has placed in you specifically. This can last over the course of one’s life or change, but if it changes it tends to be by the decade rather than by the year. Whereas the question of “What’s is God’s invitation for me in this?” might be seen as a more temporary/situational question. Since God is ALWAYS working for our best in ALL things/at ALL times, we can know that each situation/relationship/etc. brings us the opportunity to become more like Christ … to be healed … to grow. Sometimes we just be moan a difficult situation, tuck our heads against the wind and push through it. God, however, wants to use that difficult situation for our best … even if it is not something you “generated,” but that has “come at you” from somewhere or someone else. By pausing to ask this question and listen for God’s response, it turns what Satan meant for harm into what God can use for our good.

        Blessings to you … and keep thinking!! 😀

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        1. Thank you Arnell for the clarification. I think I’m on the same page now to answer the questions in this next study! Blessings to you too!

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  2. Hi Arnell, What is the difference between “God’s calling on my life” and “an invitation from God”? I’ll share one of the self-care practices I have found successful is to walk away from toxic people.

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