Self Care Is Not Being Selfish
“I don’t care how loud she cries. Do not let her in! Here’s the key in case there’s a true emergency.”
Those were my directions to my mother-in-law who had kindly agreed to come help out the first week home with our second child. The luxury of naps and self care were not possible with a toddler demanding my time, especially now that there was competition in the house. I just wanted a shower by myself without that little person pulling aside the curtain to check on Mommy. I knew she was perfectly safe outside that bathroom door. My singing got louder as her angry pleadings elevated.
Those sleep deprived days of babies and toddlers called on every management skill I had. The advice to sleep when the baby sleeps worked fine until there was an older child in the house who wasn’t ready for a nap. Fending off exhaustion was a daily struggle.
Busy managers have constant requests bombarding them whether it’s a busy office, busy store, busy factory, or busy household. We don’t always have the benefit of a get away place, a door to close (and lock!), or an assistant to filter requests for our time. Even when we are told to relax for a while because someone else is taking care of our responsibilities for the moment, we still worry and wonder what is actually going on.
My husband knew his days would always be busy. He made a habit of getting to the office an hour before anyone else just so he could begin the day in conversation with his Lord Jesus. Now I didn’t have that same opportunity during those hectic years of working and raising a family. My days didn’t have those built-in times I could carve out. But I knew when I needed to just close my eyes for a moment, put my head down on my desk or kitchen table, and listen for my Lord’s voice.
I finally started caring for both my body and spirit when I created my prayer walk. And then I realized I could take a few minutes to read a chapter from the Bible before the end-of-the day exhaustion took over. Praying myself to sleep helped turn off those nagging issues that crowded my mind. A quick morning prayer as I pried my eyes open set the tone for my day. I found the “grab and go” moments really could work to refresh, stimulate, and renew my spirit when my options were limited. And I realized how much I missed those times with my Lord when I allowed my busy life to push them aside.
Our Lord Jesus understands a busy life, a busy schedule. His three years of ministry were intense. He knew he needed to get away for time to himself. And He knew His greatest need was reconnecting with His Father. He often sought out isolated, lonely places, even mountains where He could pray (Luke 5:16; 6:12).
At a particularly stressful time when Jesus had just heard about His cousin John’s beheading, He took a boat to a desolate place where He could be alone. Yet the crowds found out where He was and followed him there. Of course He took compassion on them and healed them and later miraculously fed them all from a meager supply of fish and bread. But He still needed that time by himself. He sent away the disciples and the crowd Finally the sun set, and evening came to the mountain where He prayed alone (Matthew 14:12-23).
But mountains were not a sure refuge for our Lord Jesus. Crowds followed Him there (Matthew 15:29-30). He tried to keep secret where He was spending the night, but the people still found out (Mark 7:24). In the early morning hours He sometimes left the house where he was staying to find a solitary place where He could pray (Mark 1:35).
During Holy Week when the crowds pressed in on Him and He knew what lay before Him, our Lord Jesus let everyone around Him know how stressed and exhausted He was and how much He needed the strength from His Father at that very moment: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No. It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28)
As a good manager the Lord Jesus also looked out for the needs of His disciples. He knew they too were often exhausted and overwhelmed. Sometimes they didn’t even have a chance to grab a meal. So He took them away to a quiet, solitary place hoping to get some rest (Mark 6:31-33).
Following the lead of her Savior, the owner of a large dealership in my area looks out for the emotional, physical, and especially the spiritual needs of her employees. She offers them a renewal time with their Lord Jesus through faith building fellowship. Once a week during their lunch hour she provides a chaplain who leads Bible studies and is available for their support. She considers this one of the company’s employee benefits, and she encourages them to take advantage of it.
As leaders we need to take advantage of the benefits of being a follower of the Lord Jesus. It’s important to build in those times of self-care even if we don’t think we have the time. If we’re running on empty, our effectiveness in caring for others is greatly diminished.
Like our Lord Jesus who actually hid himself from people (John 12:36b), we can get away to a solitary place on a mountain, in a desert, by a lake, or even behind a locked door. But self care is more than physical and emotional renewal. It’s also time spent with our Life Coach who knows us and our needs better than anyone else. Plus He’s always on call, fits our schedule, and doesn’t charge for his services. No fees! No contracts!
Grab those moments. Take time for a prayer, not just talking to God, but actually talking with Him, taking the time to listen and feel His renewal and refreshment. A short devotion. Opening the Bible to a random verse and seeing where the Spirit takes you. Think of it as a short spiritual vacation full of surprises.
And then wait for the joy to restore your soul!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(First published at Lead Like Jesus January 2022)