I slammed doors, stomped feet, and spewed all kind of venom.
How dare the company ask us to move (even if only for a short time), and how dare my husband say yes.
He could just go alone. Without me. Because here is where I was. The I who’d found my identity and importance in doing good.
Never mind that I was weary and overwhelmed and not so much doing good for my husband.
The tantrum didn’t last too long, and I resigned from all my responsibilities (and later discovered life in that place did not collapse without me.)
We moved into a smaller house that I now had time to clean and keep neat. I baked bread again, cooked healthy foods, and we walked every morning before my husband went to work and after he came home. Those long days gave me time to sit and read and write and study and quilt and even nap. I ate grapes for dessert and watched pounds peel away.
When a woman from our new church needed a place to hold a meeting, I invited her to hold it at my house. In my kitchen. And I baked some kind of nifty and complicated breakfast bread.
I’d found some balance. Finally.
I remember the day, though, when this same woman called. I don’t remember all the details, but she wanted me to drive her somewhere to help a battered young woman. Never mind that I’d just had major surgery to reconstruct a scarred tube in the hopes of becoming pregnant. This was not about me, she pressed. This was about someone who needed me, and I’d be selfish to say no. I said I’d do it, hung up the phone, and cried. I was so tired. But I didn’t want to be selfish.
I sometimes wonder if the final outcome might have been different if I’d invested in more self-care after that surgery.
“He seemed,” wrote John Wesley in his Journal about George Whitefield, “to be an old man, being fairly worn out in his Master’s service, though he has hardly seen fifty years . . . ”
Whitefield himself said when advised to rest, “I had rather wear out than rust out.” He died at 64. (My goodness, that’s how old I am.) I wonder if he’d have lived longer and touched even more people for his Master had he “indulged” in a little more self-care.
I’m reading The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation by Valerie Hess and and Lane Arnold. They emphasize in chapter 3, “Toward a Balanced Lifestyle,” that self-care is a godly activity. That self-love is not the same as self-indulgence. That many of us believe that to care for ourselves is selfish, that the needs of others are more important than our own.
But, I think, doesn’t Paul tell us in Philippians to value others above ourselves? To look not to our interests but to the interests of others? And then there’s that old J-O-Y acronym: Jesus, Others, You–right there at the bottom.
Valerie describes a pastor’s wife who ruined her own health in spite of a chronic condition that required her to rest. She nearly died twice and was eventually forced to take disability.
Somehow, the idea of simply “being” with God, enjoying his presence, doing nothing but sitting with him while watching a sunset, seems “sinful” or wasteful . . . The irony is, the more frantic our lives are, even in the service of God, the less useful we are in the kingdom of God . . . We cannot be the hands and feet and heart of Christ if those body parts are suffering from neglect or even abuse through overuse. ~p. 61-62
I’m going out to sit in the yard now to be with God.
Some of us are working our way through The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation by Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold. This week Marcus Goodyear leads us through chapters 3-5 over at The High Calling. Pop on over to read more.