I don’t have all of the answers. I can’t even pretend that I do or even that I have mastered anything . I have learned only a few things in my twenty five years on this earth, but most all of these lessons were learned the hard way. Through tears of bitterness, seasons of feeling lost, nights of asking God for understanding, and ultimately sulking in my pit of frustration. All I have ever wanted to do was to preach the Gospel. I remember going off to Bible College and my mantra to help push me through college were five words that could sum me up pretty well.
“I’ve got to get ready!”
My first day of school was in an 8:30 AM Old Testament History and Literature class with Dr. Vince Medina. I remember sitting in the middle of this music classroom that was being used for a Bible course, on the third row, and thinking, “It starts now. I’ve got to get ready.” All the way through seasons of volunteering in every way possible at church, leading a traveling improv team, taking and leading two international mission trips, working a job every semester, and investing in relationships. You see, what happened by the time that I graduated would be something I would have been ashamed of admitting to my freshman self. I was tired and worn out. I did everything possible to prepare myself for ministry, striving to be knowledgeable in order to teach the Word of God, but I had forgotten the spiritual discipline of taking care of myself. I forgot to abide. To rest. To listen. To say no.
Since then I have been on a church planting team full-time and working a full-time secular job. Yet, I still never learned my lesson of taking care of myself. Until the last year.
Often the expectations we put on ourselves to handle impossible circumstances and schedules is what is actually slowly draining out the passion and joy for what we do; slowly losing ourself in the process. And… I lost myself. I somehow took on this Superwoman-complex thinking that I could handle it. I’m a strong woman who can take it, and I’ll protect others from getting worn out, so I’ll take it on for them. The “I’ve got to get ready” mindset was well-meaning, but in the process it became an expectation of perfection. To be honest with you, it’s exhausting.
The Lord not only calls us to reach the lost and take care of the widows and the orphans, but we are also called to take care of ourselves. As women especially, we have this innate desire to take care of others, often before we even consider if we are being taken care of ourselves. We have somehow taught ourselves that making us a priority is living a life of selfishness. But on the contrary, isn’t it selfish to not take care of ourselves? To think that the people around us, our families, our loved ones, our teams, and the people we are ministering to, somehow have an expectation that we are superhuman and don’t need a moment to breathe? How are we supposed to think clearly if we never sit to think? How are we supposed to keep up with our schedules if we don’t take care of our bodies? How do we think we can pour out on the lives of others when we haven’t taken the time to give priority to spending time just sitting at the feet of Jesus? I don’t say any of this out of condemnation, but out of a life that has forgotten that I am important too. Jesus cares for my calendar that has more days with plans written on them rather than days without. Jesus cares for my weary soul. Jesus cares that I need to food prep for the week so I have one less thing to worry about. Jesus cares that I need eight hours of sleep at night. Jesus cares that sometimes I need to binge watch Netflix so I can give my brain a rest from the stress of daily life. Jesus knows that I need to call my parents everyday to renew my perspective that I’m still learning.
Do you have that? Do you take care of you? Do you take mental “nights off”? Do you do things that you get enjoyment from?
If not, why not?
I dare you to be brave and take care of you. Your families will be better for it. Your marriage will be better for it. Your kids will be better for it. Your relationships all around will be better for it. I dare you to sit down and reflect on how you can take care of you better. I dare you to silence the voice saying that you are not a priority. I dare you to silence the idea that you are being selfish. It is not going to be easy. You may have to get creative with your time. You may have to have some hard conversations with people. You may have to make a list of the people in your life that are robbing you of your energy and start intentionally putting up healthy boundaries (which is another lesson in itself). Block out some time to evaluate and have that hard conversation with the Lord to re-evaluate what needs to happen for you to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Perfection is not the expectation. Just taking one area at a time, submitting it to the Lord, asking for fresh perspective, and taking healthy steps to win back the value of you.
I dare you to be bold and live full. Living full in body means actually having the ability, energy, and time to live.