For the longest time, the idea of self-care made me feel weak. I had this strange idea that I must be strong, and strong people didn’t give in to unnecessary indulgences. I grew up working hard, like most of you. I had chores as a child and a job at fifteen. I learned early the benefit of hard work and took pride in my job performance. I was a fireball that loved recognition. I was constantly pushing myself to be more, be better, work harder, get smarter. Sadly, no one stopped me long enough to explain that I needed to slow down. That life needed balance and not just a prodding iron.
It caught up with me, though. As I continued to grow older, my body began to struggle. I had pushed myself for so long. Three jobs in college with two majors. Leading group studies and weekly gatherings. I was always on the go. Every minute in my calendar was filled with an activity or prepping for one. I’d do homework while working, and I learned to become very adept at multitasking. I piled it on higher and higher, and in all honesty, I excelled under the pressure. At any given time in life, I had a minimum of two jobs while still volunteering at church. I continued to live this way until I was about 28.
When I finally met and married my husband, something within me shifted, and it gave me space that I could learn to rest in. At first, it was very uncomfortable. Everything in my life had always been go, go, go, and push, push, push. My life had become some bewildering amusement park ride where the force of motion kept everything in place. I had lived that way for so many years and I feared that if I slowed down things would begin falling apart. They’d come crashing to the ground, and I’d be left scrambling to pick up the broken mess. With my husband at my side, I began to notice that the slower I let myself go, my life was not falling apart! The whirling chaos of life began to settle, and I could see more clearly than ever before. I was learning that what held my life together wasn’t me or constant forward movement; it was God. He is strong enough to hold us together in the stillness.
My life stayed intact, but sadly, my body did not. I had never taken the time to sit and really get to know and take care of myself. I had pushed my body beyond its capacity and had lived off of the fumes of momentum for too long. My nutrition had been basically nonexistent, my sleep was all out of whack, and anxiety and high blood pressure were constant reminders that something just wasn’t right.
I wasn’t thinking clearly. I lived in what most people call “brain fog.” It’s like living in a bubble. You can’t really process what’s happening around you. You aren’t truly present the way you need to be in order to be engaged in conversation. It’s horrible, and you feel like a zombie.
More quickly than expected, this zombie-like body got pregnant. After pregnancy and birthing my son, my body was at an all-time low. Everything exhausted me. I had taken such horrible care of my pre-pregnant body that having a child wiped out my storehouse to depletion. I lived in this place for over a year. Although the framework of my life didn’t fall apart, everything within the framework did. My friendships were suffering. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be a good mom or wife. I wasn’t involved in church and rarely went. I wasn’t cultivating anything in my own life and heart, which was crushing my creative side. I was living as a shell of myself, a walking picture of me without the me inside, and I hated it.
Eventually, I visited a naturopath because I was beyond helping myself. I couldn’t seem to get my body out of the pit it had fallen into. We ran several tests, and when the results came back, she shockingly described how my body was living in a state of starvation and my organs were fighting to survive.
I was shocked to hear this but knew it was true.
So the question was, “Now what?”
We devised a plan, and I lived it out. For a year, I focused on restoring my body and mind to a place of health. I was obedient to her wisdom and watched my body begin to be transformed.
God created us–body, soul, and spirit. When we come into the world and throughout infanthood, we need constant care. As we grow, that care shifts and changes and eventually becomes our own responsibility. We may have spouses or friends who help with loving us, but ultimately, we have to manage the care we need. As we move into adulthood, our mothers’ care fades into the background, and we are left tending to our own soil of body, soul, and spirit. If we do not tend to ourselves well, we often adjust to living without care, becoming more and more haggard as the years roll on.
But the good news is that we don’t have to! We can learn how to navigate these new waters and live lives full of balance and rest. We can be healthy and strong and learn to love ourselves the way God intended.
This journey has been a hard one, but probably the most powerful one yet. I want to give you hope that in such a busy world you, too, can cultivate a balanced and enriched life. I hope to help many of you by opening up with my own struggles and how God brought me out and restored me. I am so excited to invite you into this Self-Care series as we dig deep into how to take care of ourselves in ways that build peaceful lives and pave the way for rest with the Father.
Yes! Let’s get started. Before we get into the nuts and bolt of this, I want to share a little bit of the Father’s heart with you. Self-Care matters to Him, so let’s go take a look in Relax Like Jesus.
Featured Image by Sam Manns