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The Lie That Self-Care is Selfish

A decade ago, as a young and naive 20-year-old, I photo-1421338443272-0dde2463976aremember sitting in one of my social work classes when the teacher brought up the idea of “self-care.” I think if we could have taken a classroom poll that day I would have made a large bet that most people at my Christian university had never heard of self-care, or even knew what it meant. I had no idea how much I needed to understand this discipline in my life if I was going to survive a life of full-time ministry.

 

In our culture, we are praised for running ourselves empty for a cause or family.

 

In our culture, we are praised for running ourselves empty for a cause or family. Even sadder than that, in our Christian community we are sometimes encouraged to sell out to this lie. We are told that others are more important than ourselves and we should say “yes” to everything and anyone because that’s what good Christians do, and God will be pleased.

We take a verse like Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself,” and use it out of context. This verse is telling us to see people’s value above our own and check our motives. It’s not telling us to help others to the point of exhaustion and burnout, living life with no margins.

Now, several years post-grad, I have found that in the “helping profession” we hear a lot of talks and read a lot of books about self-care. But it has only been in the last year that I have diligently sought out scripture and wisdom from other followers of Christ to learn more about what was modeled in the Bible in this area. And guess what? Self-care is there! Our God even shares about a day for us to do just this, it’s called the Sabbath.

So what does self-care look like? It doesn’t look selfish; it looks a lot like abiding in God.  We notice that Jesus practices this Himself! And he was the most selfless person that walked the earth. In Mark 1:32-39, we see that Jesus took time to rest the day after some long travel for his ministry.

The text says: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place to pray…”

 

What does self-care look like? It doesn’t look selfish; it looks a lot like abiding in God.

 

I think we forget because Jesus is God that He was often tired, burdened for people’s situations and needed rest too. If the Son of God took time to care for his soul and body, why shouldn’t we?

So what does abiding in God look like in the practical sense? How can we take care of our minds, bodies and spirits?

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In my daily battles, this is where I need the most rest and renewal; in my mind. Reading God’s words and memorizing scripture, journaling (or coloring in a scripture coloring book), even practicing mindfulness exercises where I clear my head and take deep breaths to enter into a time of prayer are my go-to self-care tools.

Sometimes the Lord asks of me to make more margin in my schedule, take part of the day off, or embrace more times of solitude. I am constantly re-evaluating week to week what my soul needs.

Can you relate? How is God asking you to slow down and give space to care for yourself? Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, pastor, teacher or student, God says, “Come to me, I will give you rest.” How will you practically – on a weekly or daily basis – take time for your soul and sanity?

 

I am learning to rest in who I am in the Lord and not what I do.

 

I don’t know about you, but this does not come natural to me. I am a driven person and often feel guilty when beginning this process. I am thankful for the example of a God who created the Sabbath and a Savior who went away from the crowds often to refuel. More than anything, I am learning to rest in who I am in the Lord and not what I do. My most important title is being a child of God!

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Image Credit: Alice Hampson, Unsplash


Whitney Bunker

About

Whitney is a child adopted into the family of God, a wife to a local pastor and mom to 7 year old Angelina. She is passionate about people loving Jesus and the least of these, especially vulnerable children. Her husband and her are co-founders of a faith-based non-profit called City Without Orphans where there vision is to see a church community that is known for caring for these children and living out the gospel in tangible ways.


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