Earlier this week I had a chance to speak to our mom’s group about self-care. I started the morning with addressing some of the bad theology we have around self-care, where we can sometimes elevate NOT looking after ourselves and get a martyrdom complex and assume that’s God’s will for us.
If that’s you, go back to my post addressing some of that imbalance. The truth is, the Bible actually assumes you already love yourself.
Love your neighbour as yourself.Mark 12:31, emphasis mine.
It’s a tiny little side note, as if “duh. Of course everyone loves themselves.” The problem is, I’m not sure I can name a single Christian woman who actually does love herself.
So what does self-love look like? It looks a lot like what loving others does. We treat ourselves the way we treat others.
Here’s the thing: most of us already know how to look after others. We know the basics of looking after humans!
Do you know what my doctor asked me when I would take my toddler in to see her?
- is she sleeping enough?
- does she eat her vegetables?
- are you limiting her sugar intake?
- is she involved in a play group?
- is she active?
- does she spend time outdoors?
- are you reading to her?
You know what I think of as self-care? Eating chocolate, having a bubble bath and watching Netflix.
Imagine if I “cared” for a toddler with those tools. YIKES! But we do it to ourselves.
If we love our kids, we make sure they’re hitting all those markers: healthy diet, good night’s sleep, social expression, physical exercise, and actively learning.
What if we applied that same principle to ourselves?
If we want to love ourselves, if we want to practice godly self-care, we need to apply it far beyond the typical “pampering” self-care talk our world is loaded with and begin to look after ourselves holistically. The Bible talks about five areas of health:
Our heart (emotions), soul (spiritual), mind (mental), strength (physical) and neighbour (social) represent what whole health looks like. So if we want to look after ourselves holistically, we’ve got to address each of those areas.
We can get skeptical of any movement that digs too dip into our own psyche. I know I was one of those people! I needed to be given permission to get to know myself not so I would become self-absorbed, but because I couldn’t have compassion on myself or others without going deep. You can’t know God if you’re in denial of what he’s doing in and through you. Even John Calvin thought so!
A final word of warning: self-care is not optional. We’ve got some grace and some resiliency to get us through tough seasons but when a season of neglecting yourself becomes a lifestyle, there are serious consequences. The number of stress-related diseases (even deaths!) affecting our world today should be a good wake up call for us to start making changes in how we care for ourselves. A wise doctor once told me that self-care is like taxes: you can’t not pay them and then just start one day and be fine. There’s always back taxes to pay. So start now.
One other thing: little things count.
A 30 second prayer counts.
A walk to the corner counts.
A phone call to your mom counts.
Don’t despise the little things you can do even in the midst of a crazy season to look after yourself in the littlest of ways.
Books worth reading:
If you’re more into podcasts, check out this post.
If you’re suffering from burnout (the result of chronic neglect of self-care), I’d send you to Carey Neuiwhof who speaks quite a bit about it in his book Didn’t See it Coming, and with a sermon series as well as some blog posts.
Can I give you permission to love yourself, the way God loves you? Not self-aggrandizement, but self-compassion and self-care, the godly way. Stewarding your mind, body, heart, soul and community in a way that glorifies God.
It’s worth it.