Self-care has always sounded like a luxury to me. It sounded like something to be done by someone who wasn’t already busy caring for others. It sounded selfish, self-centered, and almost like an “excuse” for people who just didn’t want to fulfill their responsibilities anymore.
I felt a reluctance to consider or embrace the concept of self-care right up until my body decided to let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I had gotten the idea desperately wrong. I was tired, run down, mentally, physically and emotionally weary. I was becoming resentful and bitter at responsibilities I had initially taken on with joy. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun shares an acronym for our warped sense of JOY: “Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last”, and explains that this idea “can also morph into a twisted theology about human worthlessness”.
I knew that something needed to change. I attempted to put everything else first, usually leaving me burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle, and ultimately I reached a point where I wasn’t any good to anyone. I was tired, constantly getting sick, and in need of a moment to clear my head space.
Yet even with this understanding that self-care is necessary, I still struggle to make it a regular part of my week or day. Because. “The List”… But I am learning that some days, I need only to listen to the prompting of the Spirit, and the rhythm of my body, leaving the list neatly tucked in its place on my night stand.
As I continue to read and complete the exercises presented in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, my eyes are being opened to the fact that self-care honors God. It is the living demonstration of His love and care for us, enabling us to keep our spirits attuned to His voice and leading. The writer reminds us that “respecting our bodies (including their limitations) is a way God communicates his council and will to us.”
When is the last time we sat and contemplated what is being communicated to us by our tiredness, our agitation, our frustration, our melancholy? Do we see these as signals to shut everything down, if just for a moment, to recenter ourselves in His Presence? Or do we see them merely as “states of being” to live with or push through?
The chapter closes with this:
“As we practice self-care we intentionally receive ourselves as God’s own beloved. Receiving this love into our bodies births the ability to give love and forgiveness to ourselves and others.”
If I truly receive God’s love for me, then I must also learn to love and care for this life, this body He’s given to me. My journey to being 40 days lighter has gained much more meaning (to me anyway), as it is now more than a journey to declutter, but also one of embracing and cherishing myself as one created in His image, and in whom His Spirit dwells.