I’m not totally sure whether it’s a good idea to make blog posts out of my personal preferences, but I’m going to do it anyway. We’ll see if I regret it later.
I’ll be honest. I cringe a little when I hear the words self-care. Have you ever sat around and done absolutely nothing on a Saturday? Or even just an evening after work, maybe watched a few shows, scrolled mindlessly through social media? Or gone on a vacation? If you’re anything like me, these things in and of themselves don’t leave you feeling refreshed.
The term self-care implies that we care for ourselves, clearly. But further than that, that we sustain ourselves, that we are self-reliant, that we know what is best for us, and that we provide for our own needs. But we know this isn’t how the Christian life works. We know we are to be dependent on our Heavenly Father, to rely on Him to get us from day to day, to sustain our souls. We know that He is the One who gives every breath, much less every physical provision. I think deep beneath the surface of “self-care” the real meaning behind it, is rest, or Sabbath, if you will.
Truthfully, we spend our lives working towards something. Most of what we do is work. Raising kids, pleasing clients, or friends, or bosses, pursuing relationships and the list could go on forever. We are stressed because of this work. We feel the need to rest from this work, but the cure to our stress and tiredness is not self-care. It is true rest.
This has nothing to do with the activities that encompass self-care and rest. They can look quite similar. Rest for one person isn’t rest for another. The issue is the mindset behind it; where we are turning in those moments that we want to feel refreshed. The problem is the source.
The whole idea of the Sabbath is to remind ourselves that nothing depends on us. That God is the One who holds everything together. Not pointless rest, or resting for the sake of rest, but God-focused rest. I am bent towards independence and self-reliance, as I think many of us are. But as Christians, we know we don’t take care of ourselves. We can try, of course, but over time this won’t be enough.
In our culture it’s totally acceptable that “there’s a time to be selfish”, a time to lookout for yourself. Like we take turns caring for other people and then caring for ourselves, and I so easily buy into this. I think that’s where this whole idea comes from.
Just after Jesus was nailed to the cross, John 19:26-27 says “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
In the midst of His suffering on the cross, hanging on a tree, He notices these two people he loves, and cares for them. In my own suffering, I tend to turn inward, to even allow myself to think it’s my turn to be served. But we don’t get this idea from Scripture. This isn’t the life that Jesus models. He constantly pours Himself out throughout Scripture. Retreating to pray and spend time alone with His Father is not the same thing as self-care. It’s the opposite. It is coming to the True Source for rest, counsel, intimacy. Our time alone with the Father is not self-care, it is looking outside of ourselves for true care. And when we come to Him as our source for rest, He can give us wisdom and peace that enables us to face our lives with an appropriate, eternal perspective. He reminds us that He is good, and that He is sovereign.
There’s a Charlie Hall song with the lyrics “Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity, sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity.” And those words are perfect; exactly true. HE is my sanity, my calm, my peace of mind. No amount of pampering, of bubble baths, or running, or wine or chocolate could give me the true rest that He provides. Sure, some of these things can point us to Him, but we have to remember that HE is the wellspring that satisfies every need.
So I motion that we move from calling “self-care” to rest, or better yet, Sabbath. I know myself well enough to know that I am easily tempted to believe I can do things on my own. This is just one way I can remind myself that’s not true. We can keep the focus where it should be, on the Provider of rest. We, as Christians, can claim to the world, each time we say we are going to Sabbath, that we are turning to the One who knows how to care for us, not mustering anything up on our own.
We wouldn’t have had to come up with this whole self-care thing if we knew how to properly rest. It’s something I’m working on this year, and I am praying that the Lord would teach me what it means to come to Him as my source and my Sustainer. Because I can’t even do that on my own.