Talking to and watching the women in my life (and the one in the mirror), I see an increase in the constant pressure we feel to do. And do as much as we can now. Except for ourselves because that would be selfish or vain or unacceptable. It’s as if in doing more we will be more. Watching others and tracking this tendency in my own life, I sometimes wonder, More what? The only answer I can come up with is more tired, crabby, and overwhelmed. And the answer left me feeling like a tangled, knotty mess. In our desire to show God, our families, our friends and our neighbors our love and faith, we have somehow become convinced that there is no room for self-care, self-renewal, or self-love.
Lately, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to rethink my position when I slip into this self-imposed exile from all things me. In an attempt to show Him I’ve been listening as He speaks to me in the Bible, I quoted Mark 12:30-31 (NLT) with absolute certainty I was on the righteous path. And I said,
But Lord, Jesus said…
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
In the silence following my biblical declaration, I felt Him urging ne to read it again. Then again, and again. Out loud. Every time I did, when I got to the “Love your neighbor as yourself.. . “ part, the ‘as yourself’ part seemed to poke me in the heart.
Finally, I muttered to Him, “Are you trying to tell me You want me to love them the way I love myself meaning that in order to love them, I have to love me first? That goes against everything they taught me! You know: JOY – Jesus, Others, You. It’s all over the place, Lord. The best of the best are teaching it and they mean it. And they believe You mean it. So what’s up with that?”
Silence. The kind that makes the heart uncomfortable enough to get back to doing. Anything to avoid the coming lesson.
Instead of running, I sat there wondering if the things I longed for were more than selfish wants. So I asked Him. “Lord, is it possible that the massage my shoulders ache for, learning more about essential oils, longer walks on our land with the dogs, chiropractic treatments, and more time with Jon aren’t just treats, but are instead good deeds I could do for myself? Could it be that taking care of me means I can do for others with enthusiasm?” While I waited for an answer, I broke up the silence with more pleading. Because I’m a chatterbox and He knows that. Finally, I said, “Lord, I’m tired from all the doing, and I’m pretty sure what I do shows that. Doing for others feels like I’m slogging through knee-deep mud in a thunderstorm. When I get something done, I’m undone and not in a good way. Please show me how this doing thing works. And He did. In 1 Corinthians 10:33 Paul says to God, (bold italics added by me) “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”
So Lord, Paul did for himself as well as others. Hmmmm…
And then I went to Philippians 2:4 where I was sure my JOY thing was going to be confirmed. That verse says, (again, bold italics added by me). “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Too? As defined in addition to? I kept reading about Paul’s life.
Suddenly it hit me, and I said, “Lord! When Paul was in prison, others ministered to him, and he accepted it (even asked for it) so even there, in the worst conditions, he could minister to the churches, and eventually, through Your Word to us. I know Paul gave all he was given away for the cause of Christ. But first he took what he needed for himself so he could give what He was given in the time he had.” Now I was undone by joy. The kind that has nothing to do with an acronym and everything to do with Him. Peace washed over my heart in the stillness. The way a warm, power-infused oil poured over brokenness does.
And I rested from my unrest. Literally. And I woke up refreshed from hours of not doing for others, ready to do for them differently. With the enthusiasm that is driven by faith, hope, and love. For Him. For my calling. For them. And for doing. Even in the tangled messes that are our lives here on earth.