The years I spent raising little kids — from the time they were babies through early elementary — were some of the hardest years of my life.
I wanted so badly to take care of everyone else, but in the process, I forgot how important it is to take care of yourself.
It’s been a few years since those early days of parenthood, and now I’m in a different phase of life. My kids are older.
I still love taking care of everyone, but now one thing has changed. I include myself in that mix a little more.
Because, in my old age I’ve discovered a truth:
It’s important to take care of yourself as well as you take care of everyone else.
And, let me tell you, it’s glorious to be cared for by me.
Just like the kids and my husband, I spend time thinking about what would make me happy. What I need or want.
How about you? Do you take time to consider what you want and need, or are you too busy caring for everyone else?
It might surprise you to find out all those people you are taking such good care of would actually be happy if you spent some time taking care of yourself as well.
Put yourself in their shoes. Just as you want your children, grandchildren, and parents to do something nice for themselves, they want you to do that for yourself too. Plus, as your friend, Jesus wants you to take care of yourself too.
But it’s hard to make the transition, to shift your thinking to a point where you can think of your own wants and needs. It comes in little steps, hindered, often, by guilt.
Even now, there are still times when I struggle to do things just for myself.
Thoughts still creep into my head: “Why do you get to have fun while other people work?” or “What gives you the right to take all this time for yourself?”
If you’re a high-guilt person like me, then you’ll understand. It can be frustrating to have these thoughts when you know you are finally doing the right thing to take care of yourself.
In fact, just recently I was wrestling with some of these thoughts while sitting at a local coffee shop with a group of friends. I admitted to them, “I just feel so guilty. Like I should get back to work instead of sitting here relaxing.”
“Why?” they asked. “Who says you can’t just take this time to sit here and be with us?”
They were right. I wasn’t shirking any of my responsibilities. So why did I think I wasn’t allowed moments to simply rest and be with them?
It can be like that when we take time to pray or do anything simply for the joy of doing it. There’s this wrestling within us. This feeling we are wasting time.
The truth is, hard work is important. I love setting goals and working toward them, and I’m from Nebraska where hard work is a state of being.
But rest is important too. Taking care of ourselves. Stepping away and allowing ourselves to be re-filled so we can keep going. Whether that’s time with friends, resting, prayer, or simply reading a good book.
Who is telling us we don’t have time for these things? That we are wasting time or being lazy if we simply have coffee with friends, sit and read or even pray?
Certainly not Jesus. He would speak peace and love into our hearts like my friends at the coffee shop that day.
So if not Jesus, then who are those whispers coming from that tell us we can’t slow down? That we are selfish if we take care of ourselves and our own wants and needs?
Maybe it’s the evil one, aka the devil, or the world and its twisted priorities, or even our own past hurts or struggles.
But it’s not the voice of Love. It’s not the voice we should be following.
So I challenge you this week to spend as much time thinking about yourself as you think about others. What do you want and need? How do you need to be cared for this week?
Offer yourself that care.
And when you hear the lies whispered in your heart that you need to get back to work or stop being so selfish, here’s what I want you to do:
- Recognize the lies. (Hint: if it’s mean, it’s not Jesus.)
- Tell someone how you are feeling, the thoughts you are struggling with, and the lies you are hearing. If you can’t tell someone, then simply speak it out loud. Literally say the thought you are hearing out loud. Doing either of these things will shine some light on the lie and help you see the truth.
- Reject the evil in that lie. Actually speak a prayer out loud that names the lie and then rejects it, “In the name of Jesus, I reject the lie that [fill in the lie you are hearing] and I send it to the foot of the cross. Jesus, please fill me with your Holy Spirit.”
When you take care of yourself and reject the lies that are trying to stop you, then you have taken a powerful step in the right direction.
Show yourself some love this week and make Jesus smile.