I looked on my hanging baskets with pity. Their colors were beautiful, but the branches were getting droopy. As I removed them from the hooks, I was astonished how light they were even though they had just been watered yesterday. The morning sun was scorching them, so I moved them to the shade of side yard to give them a break from the sun and douse them with a good watering. As I looked over my flowers, I felt a little nudge from God that I too was needing and deserving of the same type of care. My body, mind, and spirit were weary from caring for everyone else and I was desperately in need of a reprieve and some refreshment.
It is easy to get caught up in caring for everyone around us and forget that we have needs of our own. My hanging baskets play an important role in pleasing others and bring joy to all who pass by my house. They can not do their job without proper care, and neither can any of us. I have at times attempted to live as if I am wonder woman and can handle anything. The reality is that I am as frail as any of the flowers in my baskets requiring the care of my heavenly gardener to tend to my needs. Working multiple jobs and caring for my family often gets in the way of nourishing my body, mind, and spirit. Yet scripture calls us to be loving with ourselves. Jesus laid out a summary of how we are to live saying,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).
We recognize the loving God and our neighbor, but what about the “as yourself” part? How well are we doing at loving ourselves as we would extend compassion to our neighbor?
I can be really good at pouring myself into caring for others, but I am terrible about offering myself the same grace. The negative self talk that I engage in can be ugly--I would never speak to a neighbor like that! I need to keep reminding myself that God made me in his image and loves me with an ever-lasting love. He doesn't call me to deny myself completely, but to love myself with the same grace that I extend to others.
After a full day at work I ran to the mall to pick up a package that had been delivered then I doubled back to get to a dentist appointment. At every stop I was checking texts and emails and dealing with the challenges that were cropping up. I was momentarily flustered when the dentist office was backed up and I had to wait and then I remembered the book I had packed along. It occurred to me that God had given me a gift of a half hour to cool my heels and be still. In the quiet of the reception room I turned the pages of my book. In the solitude of the waiting room, I connected with God’s heart.
“Be still, and know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10).
We all have a measure of control over our lives. We can choose to prioritize life-giving activities. It will require thoughtful planning to step off the hamster wheel and cultivate time for refreshment. It means we need boundaries instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations. It requires accepting the idea that you can’t make everybody happy. For me it means scheduling time in my day to slow down and delight in God’s gifts for me--whether that was a bath and a nap, time in prayer and scripture, a walk, or just time with friends spent laughing around the dinner table. Take note of where your time and resources are being spent and consider what might need adjusting.
True rejuvenation happens when we connect with our God as the giver of life. Jesus used the imagery of the branch needing to stay connected to the vine to have life within it and produce good fruit.
John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Time spent in God’s word or in prayer is not wasted. Each moment in God’s presence equips us for the challenges that are before us each day. Time invested in spiritual connection is precious and we will reap the benefits of that time throughout each moment of the day.
Our culture has made an idol out of independence, but the value is not biblical. Believers are knit together into a community of faith and called to care for one another and bear each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2). There are no merit badges for toughing things out alone. We don’t need to feel shame or embarrassment over asking for help. We are called to be one body working together. We won’t get the rest we need if we are trying to prove that we can do it all.
God gave us this life as a blessing to be celebrated. In John 10:10 Jesus tells us, “ I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Don’t miss out on the abundance God has for you. Discover the joy God has in store for you by drawing close to him and finding rest in his unfailing love.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema