Constantly spending energy without replenishing leads to a definite breakdown. It's rather a matter of math. Cars can't drive great distances without refueling. Bank accounts can't sustain repeated withdrawals without deposits. The same is true for you. The demands for your time and care will leave you on empty, unable to keep caring. It was a dark day for me when I realized that I had used up all of my strength on others and hadn't taken care of myself. Ongoing care for yourself is the only way to prevent a breakdown and keep caring for others.
As a mother and wife, I find that I deal with a lack of kindness to myself far more than I deal with a lack of kindness toward others. But this is counter-productive and self-defeating--when I run out of fuel, I can't care for anyone. When I crash, I'm forced into self-care and completely focus on my needs. It would be so much better to take care of myself along the way.
Don't get me wrong, I begin each morning with a cup of coffee, a notebook, and my Bible. As far as staying soaked in God's Word, I have been disciplined and consistent. It is an additional type of care that I speak of: the kind that paints toenails and enjoys hot baths, goes on leisurely walks and makes time for pleasure reading. When family and work obligations pile up, it may seem irresponsible to schedule time for these activities, but in the end we become more efficient and deeply content thus allowing us to become better servants to those we love.
Scripture commands us to, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:31. But that doesn't mean love yourself less than all others. We simply cannot love others continuously when we have not loved ourselves. We are headed for a collision with feeling overlooked, misused, exhausted in every way, and literally, physically sick. If we are always caring for others and never caring for ourselves, we may also fall toward an unhealthy view of ourselves as a self-appointed martyr.
We see this in the story of Mary and Martha. Luke says, that "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" Luke 10:40. We too, are often distracted by preparations, but Jesus said that only one thing is needed. "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." When we choose to recognize the time to sit at Jesus' feet, what we receive there can not be taken from us; it is eternal and will empower us to serve others with a pure heart.
Jesus Himself pulled away from others to commune with God and to be refreshed. He often went to a remote place to pray. He knew when His body and spirit were running low and would go away to spend time with His Father. Often this was somewhere away from others and in the beauty of nature. Jesus found refreshment in the wilderness, a remote place, or near a lake. This is a key to self-kindness. Make time to go away on a honeymoon with the Lover of your soul.
We see Jesus model this behavior in scripture. Jesus withdrew to quiet spots to worship. It is amazing how much smaller our trials seem in the midst of a forest and fresh air. We serve a big God, and the Enemy wants us to focus on our problems as mountains, but when we remember who the Creator of the mountains is and His love for us, it is easier to maintain the proper perspective.
Scripture tells us, that "a merry heart does good like a medicine" Proverbs 17:22. In addition we are told that, "In Your presence is fullness of joy" Psalm 16:11. When we spend that alone time with Him, we are filled with joy. And that joy? It's our strength according to Nehemiah 8:10. We are strengthened when we spend time in His presence filling up with His joy. God created laughter to heal us in body, soul, and spirit.
Never feel guilty for taking a little time to refuel. Caring for yourself IS caring for others. Your whole world will be a better place for it. His call is to come away with Him. It doesn't have to be to an expensive spa. Make mini retreats right where you are--a cup of coffee on your back porch, breakfast with a friend, a walk in the woods. And most importantly time set aside for His presence to fill you with His joy!
Rev. Jason Ruis
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster