A couple of years ago, a woman from our church asked a good question on Facebook: Shouldn’t we be less focused on self care and more focused on soul care? There were resounding yeses from other Christians. I had just finished the curriculum for our Spiritual Disciplines class at the Scum Study Center and had spent a lot of time contemplating soul care. As I looked at myself, at the lives of my kids, and at the hearts of the moms in my life, her question led me to consider:
Are these two things mutually exclusive?
Think about it. What do we do for our children? From the moment they are born we are focused on the physical care of our babies. We struggle with them as we both learn our roles breastfeeding. I figure out how to hold him best. He figures out the latch. We read books and books on helping our babies sleep well, mostly because we are dying for sleep, but also because: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (affiliated link). In the first months and years of our kids’ lives, they learn whether or not they are safe in this world by the state of their felt needs. If their physical needs are met, they are more calm and rested. As we meet these needs, our kids learn that they are valuable. Loved. Secure. They feel safe to ask for help, because they know it will come.
As we care for their physical needs, we are also caring for their spiritual needs.
Meanwhile, we mamas are running around ragged. We fear we’re doing everything wrong. We are not getting enough sleep. We rarely get a moment to ourselves other than a couple of moments in the bathroom, but even then they find us. We forget to eat, unless it is a handful of nuts or gummy bears on the go.
We desire God, but have been told the only way to meet Him is in prayer and Bible reading. When we try, we fall asleep. Our bodies are tired. Our souls are worn.
I believe it is time to approach ourselves and our relationship with God from a different angle. What if we began to care for our souls the way we care for our kids’ souls? What if we put ourselves to bed at a decent hour, made sure we were bathed, fed, and cared for? What if we began to believe that self care is soul care?
“But Leah,” you might argue, “isn’t that a little self-focused?”
Maybe. But maybe self-care is exactly what we need in order to open ourselves up to receive the love the Father lavishes on us.
Instead of feeling guilty for falling asleep during our quiet times, maybe we can accept that our body needs that rest – and the Holy Spirit is in it.
The first time this concept crossed my mind, Jack was 6 months old and my heart ached over my exhaustion. I could not believe how tired I was and how little sleep I could get any given day. I began to wonder, Does God care about my physical needs?
Somehow, someway, the story of Elijah came into my mind. Elijah was a prophet who did amazing things for God in 1 Kings. After he calling down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel and basically proved God’s existence before idolaters and enemies (see 1 Kings 18:22-45), he found himself running for his life from Queen Jezebel. For an entire day he ran until he could run no further. In despair he called out to God, “I have had enough, LORD, take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:4-5)
I have heard criticisms of Elijah, that he should have had more faith. He just saw God’s power fall from the heavens before hundreds of people, how could he doubt? How could he fear?
But God does not respond in judgment. God responds in love:
The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank.1 Kings 19:5-8
Food. Water. Sleep. Basic needs for our physical bodies. Provided by God.
Elijah was ready to give it all up. He preferred to die than go on. God saw his deeper need was rest and refreshment. Good food and deep sleep in order to continue on his journey.
God sees our need for rest more than we do. And He invites us to take care of ourselves.
When we practice self care we are receiving the provision of our needs as given by God.
When we practice self care we are practicing stewardship of our bodies.
When we practice self care we are acknowledging our dependence on God.
When we practice self care, we are practicing soul care, opening our hearts and souls to receive the goodness of God in our lives.
Self-Care Practice of the Week: Bed Time
There’s a reason there’s a dance party in my house at 8:30 every night: I am finally “off duty.” It is my time to do whatever I want. And I try to squeeze it all in. Popcorn. Tea. Netflix. Books. Crossword puzzles. Music. I do it all.
I don’t go to bed.
Instead, I whine like my son, “Going to bed is soooo booorrring.”
I want to play. I need to sleep.
But for the next week, I promise to you I will be getting ready for bed at 10pm and I’ll be in bed, lights out, at 10:30pm. I have been trying to do this for ages. I need you to hold me accountable.
What about you? Do you struggle with self care? Are there any practices of self care you regularly engage? Or do you have a bedtime routine that sets you up well for the next day?
We only have this one body. Let’s take care of it.