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Self Care--Is It Important?

Do you take time for yourself?

There's a lot of talk about "self care" and, surprisingly, even some debate about whether or not it's biblical. (Those who argue against it--and I've been in this camp before--purport it is merely selfishness with an attractive veneer, that God calls us to a life of servanthood and sacrifice. They point out that Jesus modeled this kind of selflessness--serving even when he was exhausted, for example--and that Romans 12 instructs us to be "living sacrifices.")

But what does self care even mean? What does it look like? Is it important?

As someone who neglected to engage in "self care" for many years, I can verify it is ABSOLUTELY important! Neglect your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health long enough and you WILL crash and burn. God didn't design us to be "on" all the time. And I would argue that God even modeled (and mandated) self care for us--that's the whole point of a Sabbath. But what does self care look like? What does it entail?

If by self care we mean demanding our own way or stipulating certain requirements for our happiness, then I would argue that IS selfishness. If we turn into a monster when we don't get our "me time" (an "if Momma ain't happy ain't nobody happy" attitude), that IS an excuse and a lack of self-control. But if by self care we mean taking time to engage in practices that ensure mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health, I would argue that self care IS biblical as indicated by the Sabbath rest. Let's take a look at that Sabbath model.

God is all-powerful and doesn't need to rest (Is. 40:28, Ps. 121:3-4) yet He did. From the very beginning God modeled rest (Gen. 2:2-3) for us. He wanted us to know that there is a time for work and a time for rest. But because humanity doesn't always pay attention to God's example, He also MANDATED rest for His people (Ex. 20:8-11)--and even creation (Ex. 23:10-12). Not only did God make rest a part of His commands, but He went so far as to indicate blessings (benefits) if His people would observe them--including taking/giving a Sabbath rest (Lev. 26:1-13, Deut. 30:19)--and warned of consequences if they were not observed (Lev. 26:14-46, Deut. 30:17-18). Lest we think this was an Old Testament mandate only, I would argue that Jesus modeled rest/self care for us as well. He often "escaped" (i.e. got away/took time for Himself) to pray and reconnect with His Father (Mk. 1:35-37, Lk. 5:15-16). He also instructed the disciples to get away from the crowds when they were weary and helped facilitate this (Mk. 6:31-32).

But what about the times when Jesus kept on serving even when He was tired? (e.g. Mk. 6:33-34) Doesn't that show us the Christian life is all about "dying to self" and serving sacrificially? Well, yes...when we are fulfilling God's call on our lives. "What?" you might ask. Let me extrapolate. Jesus knew God had called him to demonstrate himself as the Christ, God incarnate--to heal the sick, cast out evil spirits, and preach the good news of God's redemptive plan for humanity. So when confronted with these needs, Jesus stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and when to bat. He was living in obedience to the Father. THIS is what Jesus was modeling for us in his ongoing selfless care for others. As mommas there will be times when we have to care for others (namely our families) and put our needs on the back burner FOR A TIME. In doing so, we fulfill our God-given calling to be wives and mothers. BUT we are only human. We CANNOT go, go, go and do, do, do or even serve, serve, serve indefinitely. And God knows this; "For He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). Thus His establishment of the Sabbath rest from the very beginning of time.

So what does it look like to take a Sabbath, to rest, to engage in self care? No one can answer that question for you. What feeds YOUR soul will be different than mine. (My husband, for example, needs hard physical labor and the great outdoors to stay sane and happy, while I need extra sleep and life-giving books and conversation.) The point is you DO need to feed your spirit, soul, mind, and body or you'll get depleted and have nothing left to give to others or to God.

How does one engage in self care? Find your Source (mine is God and wisdom and sunshine) and connect regularly through life-giving practices (for me it is Scripture/prayer, outdoor exercise, and learning new things). Once again, "regularly" is a bit ambiguous. But if we take our cue from biblical wisdom, once a week seems to be the minimum. (Of course, daily is even better if you can pull it off even for just a few minutes!)

Don't feel guilty about taking time to care for yourself, Momma. You're worth NEED's how God designed you.

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