Forced to Care for Myself
By nature, I enjoy helping people and meeting the needs of others. But when I crashed and burned in 2013 and God brought my grace-filled friend Janna into my life a year later, I began to learn to give myself grace. It was okay for me to take time to do things I enjoyed and focus on caring for myself.
At that point in my life, I really needed to spend time taking care of myself whether I wanted to or not – it was a medical necessity. I also had no reserves to care for others, at least not cheerfully. I needed to be alone, to seek God, to sleep, to find out what I enjoyed doing that would refresh me.
Is Me Time Selfish?
But now? My life is somewhat calmer than it was then. I don’t have as much stress and I am better about making time to rest if I’m tired. But I struggle with the fact that “Me time” – time to do things by myself or for myself – can feel selfish. Guilt creeps in when I hear Christian women talk about the virtues of a life of self-sacrifice and serving others. I wonder if I still need time to myself, or if I’m serving God as I ought. I wonder if I’m not seeking God’s strength in the right way to continue on when I’m weary.
The Bible tells us to serve others and work as unto the Lord.
God also knew we needed rest. That’s why He created an evening where we sleep and commanded a day of rest every week.
So how do we think about these commands of service and rest? I need to know if I’m being selfish when I crawl into bed to read a good book.
An Unselfish Reason to Take Time for Myself
I believe taking time for me can be done for unselfish reasons (and can certainly be done for selfish purposes). Time to myself can be preparation for service. One of the reasons I need to rest, to do things that refill and refresh me, is so that I come back more fully able to serve with joy.
A few weeks ago, I worked through a six-week home habit and organization course by Mystie Winkler called Sweep and Smile. The theme of some of her emails was about how housework is repetitive and routine, how we tend to get tired of it, and tired of the messes coming back.
But, she says, the reason we clean is so that the space is ready for use by people we love. We clean the kitchen so it’s ready for the next meal. We clean the living room so we can enjoy family time in the evening.
I really love the change in perspective: Instead of thinking that I have to clean up someone’s mess again, I can think about how I am preparing it to serve the people I love and to do the things God has called me to do.
In the same way, taking time to rest or just to do something I enjoy can be done with the goal that I will be able to cheerfully serve others again.
So this week, after we clean our kitchens in preparation for the next meal, let’s also take a few minutes to clean our hearts – read a book, take a walk, spend 5 minutes in a quiet room – so we’re ready to help the people in our lives when they need it.
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