I woke up while it was still dark and held my breath as I checked the baby monitor, hoping that the toddler was still sleeping. Success! My anticipation rose as I started to tiptoe downstairs, only to be stopped dead in my tracks. Our toddler, sleeping so soundly only a minute ago, was now awake and calling out. A little disappointed, I nonetheless grabbed him from the crib and brought him along, hoping I could keep him occupied while I worked out.
I’ve always struggled with how to manage self-care, but definitely more so now with little ones at home. I know the principle of how important it is to “fill up” so that we can “pour out.” But figuring out how to do it can seem daunting. There’s also the lingering guilt (is it ok for me to take time for myself while other things slide?) and convenient excuses (I’m too tired to get up early) that can make it difficult to move forward.
Over the years, I’ve come to slowly look at the practice of self-care in a different light. God has been so gracious dealing with me as I’ve wrestled through what it should look like in my life. Besides the immediate, positive results that can come from caring for our personal needs, here are a few more benefits that I’ve noticed.
- Self-care reminds me that God uses our limits, as well as our strengths. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to be vulnerable with other people, but I also sometimes find it hard to admit to myself and God when I need help. At heart, it’s an issue of pride that I’m learning to repent of (Romans 12:3). The great thing is that when I humbly admit my needs and seek God’s wisdom in how to meet them, He moves in powerful ways. For instance, meeting with a Christian counselor has brought much needed perspective and encouragement. I recently shared about my experience with a counselor with some of the students in my small group, and it sparked a great discussion that led to a meaningful step toward healing for at least one of them as well!
- Self-care reminds me that “you reap what you sow.” In this season of life, part of what self-care looks like for me is to work out at home. Per the opening story, I’m almost never alone (somehow, those little ones always know when I’m trying to sneak off!). I’ve come to accept that my workouts, and often my Bible reading, will be punctuated by sounds and needs of little ones. I can sometimes keep them occupied with food, toys, etc., but I’ve had to accept that this is the season of life I’m in. Yet even with the obstacles that arise, when I take time to care and invest a little back into myself, I know that the fruit will make it all worth it. Fruit that comes from time with the Lord – rest, an active body and a clear mind – tastes so sweet that it’s worth the fight to cultivate it (Galatians 6:9).
- Self-care reminds me to be grateful. Making sure to care for myself allows me to pause from the many demands on my life. That change of pace is often the nudge I need to turn my eyes off of hardships and selfishness and to remember to be grateful to God for His many, many gifts. When resting, I can thank Him for his peace. When pursuing a hobby or using a talent, I can thank Him for His provision. When talking with a friend, I can thank God for love and support. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
In closing, may we all be like the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31, whose relationship with God leads her to right action for others as well as herself:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (v. 25-26)