Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Self-care and Selfishness

A friend recently asked our moms' group if any other mothers struggled to take time for themselves. Quite a few other moms chimed in about how challenging it is to leave the kiddos and go do something either with friends or alone. While there are practical challenges to overcome, they were talking about guilt, not practical challenges. I have been thinking about this for a while now.

I feel Christians live this strange dichotomy. We are told to be humble servants, to put God first, others second, and ourselves last. We are sinners, destined for Hell, with hearts "deceitfully wicked." And yet, somehow we are the beloved of King Jesus, heirs of Heaven. In fact, when Jesus is asked what the two most important commandments are, he says:

“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

The question that keeps popping into my head is: what would it look like if I loved my neighbor the way I loved myself? How do I love myself? Am I constantly critiquing myself, judging my actions as unworthy? Do I think beautiful or merciful thoughts toward myself?

If your friend came to you and said that she was tired, overwhelmed, needed a break from life, would you encourage and help her to take one? Would you want her to feel guilty the whole time? Then why do we do this to ourselves? Have we become so terrified of pride and selfishness that we can't even rest as God commanded us to do?

It is true that we are sinful. It is true that we sometimes need to be reminded of our sin and called out on our rebellion. It is true that without God, we are nothing. All our righteousness is as filthy rags.

It is also true that God sent His son to wipe that slate clean. It is true that once we accept the gift of salvation, we are washed white. We are children of light.

Here's the thing: I believe that we can love God first, others second, and still make time for ourselves. Did you hear that? You can have time to yourself, guilt-free. God loves us outrageously. He desires that we obey Him because He longs to lead us into the freedom that He has for us. He calls us His children. Sometimes He just wants us to play, to enjoy life, to be refreshed. Sometimes that is His will for us. When Jesus was in the craziest times of His ministry, he sneaked out to the wilderness to spend time in quiet prayer. He also spent time alone with His best friends. He gave us the ultimate example of how to serve the world, and it included relationship and rest.

So don't stop it. Don't fight the need for rest and relationship. Don't buy into the lie that you don't deserve it. Don't buy into the lie that you are being selfish. Don't buy into the lie that the world will fall apart without you for a few hours or days (hello, pride!). Don't buy into the great American lie that you are just too busy.

Let God speak to you through Scripture and quiet. Let God refresh you through friends and the activities you love. Let God fill you with love and grace and mercy so that you can pour those blessings out on others. 

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Embrace the rest. Embrace the fun. Embrace the times of quiet and the times of laughter. You will be a better wife/mother/person for it.

If you are feeling especially brave, ask God to show you how you truly see yourself. I did that once and it changed my life completely. That is a story for another day!