Why the Message of Self-Care is All Kinds of Wrong
I keep hearing it. The words are flying out of our mouths ALL. THE. TIME.
"Don't forget, self-care is important!"
" I need to take care of myself!"
"Have you been taking care of yourself?"
"Are you keeping promises to yourself?"
While these statements and comments most likely come with good intentions, the message is all kinds of wrong.
How would you define self-care? This term seems to be deeply rooted in "me time." Greeting cards, t-shirts, and commercials are shouting the message of self. The world has sold us a picture of what it believes will refresh us: pedicures, coffee dates, exercise, uninterrupted lunches, a glass of wine, a half hour scroll through Instagram, a scoop of ice-cream, a massage, a movie. The list could continue, right? While it isn't wrong to seek some peace and quiet, I believe The Lord has a different idea of what self-care looks like. There are multiple examples of Jesus retreating to be alone. However, in every one of them, He retreated to draw near to the Father.
Now before you roll your eyes and mumble mean things about me under your breath, please read on. I've walked the road of exhaustion. We had four kids in five years and three of them are wild boys. I've had years of sleepless nights, disobedient kids, no showers, and little appreciation... I promise to you that I HAVE BEEN THERE. And I AM STILL THERE!
That being said, take note of two things:
- I believe it is important that we are good stewards of the physical body God has entrusted to us. After all, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." To make wise, disciplined choices in regards to food and exercise is not in question here.
- I also believe our God gives good gifts for us to enjoy (James 1:17)! He means for you to delight in the people and things around you. He adores His children and He showers them with blessing. To partake in pleasure for pleasure's sake is absolutely acceptable. Enjoying those gifts is not in question here.
However, to prioritize those things or anything else above time with our Savior deserves to be challenged. To wearily retreat from our families only to gain fleeting refreshment, is a slippery slope.
Scripture is clear. Self-focus is not the goal, and the Lord is the one that supplies all our needs.
- Luke 9:23-24 - "And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
- John 3:30 - "He must increase, but I must decrease."
- Matthew 11:28 - “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
- 2 Peter 1:3 - "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."
Motherhood is such an exhausting and refining job. And our world has slowly convinced us that self-care is the answer. Except the world's self-care says, "numb yourselves with fleeting pleasure, check out on your reality, and distract yourself from the issues of your heart." All of these things will leave you wanting in the end. Rather than making statements and asking questions that imply that taking care of oneself is the answer, let's take our weariness to our Father, just as Christ did. When your mom journey has you completely depleted and needing time to yourself, I pray that you will run to the feet of your Savior and find that His words fill you with an eternal refreshment that has no match to what the fleeting pleasures of this world have to offer. Below are five questions to help you process a biblical perspective of self-care. You may even want to discuss this with your community group or other like-minded mommas.
- How do you use your time away from your family? Are you allowing the Savior to fill you with eternal refreshment? No matter what earthly avenue you chose to be refreshed (running, reading, crafting, massages, etc), how can you make it God focused?
- What is your motive for wanting time alone? Could it be fueled by entitlement? There are so many times when I'm literally thinking, "I deserve this!" That thinking is flawed and needs flushing out.
- When you are blessed by time away with friends (girls night out, a coffee date, etc) are you reminded of God's faithfulness? Does conversation point back to Him? It's true that meeting friends is so fun, but the times I leave feeling most recharged are when I'm with people that lean into deep conversations, spurring me on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Is the time you invest in diet and exercise matched by time spent growing spiritually healthy? Becoming spiritually strong and healthy is eternal. Becoming physically strong is not. We will say goodbye to this body one day.
- Are there women in your life that you could extend the gift of retreat to? Could you swap watching kids with a friend so that each of you could find some time and space to be with Jesus?
**For more on this topic, I encourage you to listen to this message from The Nest in Dallas back in 2016. Jeanie Cox and Leslie Barry will remind you to stay anchored to God even when you are exhausted.