February has always been an awkward month for me. I was never big on the whole Valentine’s Day thing. I’m not a hater; I’m just not overly sappy and romantic. I like the subtle and more personal gestures rather than the grand romantic ones. Subtle as in… no sap.
I’m telling you all of this because I need you to know how panicked I was when I found out about this month’s topic. What do I have to say about love or relationships or all of that sappy stuff? I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I’m not even anywhere close to being in a serious relationship!
As I’m writing this, I am at that weird time in my life when I have so much to do but so little motivation to do all that is required of me. I am mentally overwhelmed by all of the things I have on my plate, even though I haven’t even moved a muscle to take care of the different matters. I usually end up procrastinating by bumming around and watching Netflix. Have you met my friend, Netflix?
I digress. My apologies.
As I wonder at my newfound obsession with bumming around, I realize that in the last three to four months of 2015, I have been working and working and working. I went from one event to another, from being involved in a youth conference overseas to planning seminars, with the grand finale being my church’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services - a total of 5 services in a 24-hour period! The beginning of 2016 left me extremely fatigued and cranky, not to mention a little bit discouraged. And that was when I turned to my well-meaning but soul-sapping friend, Netflix, for some mind numbing binge watching.
My soul was exhausted.
I don’t usually focus on the different aspects that make up who I am separately; I usually focus on me as a whole. But this time, it was quite obvious that something was not right. Physically, sleep reinvigorated me quickly enough. Spiritually, I was okay. Emotionally, though, I was like a well run dry. My emotions were all over the place, and my mind was tired.
A feeling surfaced somewhere along the line of that realization. I felt guilty. I felt guilty for being emotionally drained. I felt guilty for not being on top of things. I felt guilty for the post-Christmas and post-events blues. I felt guilty for not doing more. I felt guilty for not being happy. I felt guilty almost all the time and started condemning myself. I think the guilt morphed into a bit of resentment and anger… towards myself!
I thought I was the only person going through all of this, but then I talked to a friend of mine. She told me she was pretty much going through the same thing. I talked to another friend of mine who lives in Seattle, and she was going through a similar thing.
As I meditated on that verse and that passage, I had something of a light bulb moment. We are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The standard of how we are supposed to love others is the way in which we love ourselves. If we can’t love the life that God has given us, if we don’t give it the necessary care and attention it needs, our standard of how we love other people is way lower than what it’s supposed to be.
Coming back to my unromantic and panicked self, I thought about how to love people. The funny thing is, I couldn’t write about anything else other than the fact that I needed some love. No, not the romantic pink hearts and bouquet of flowers type, but the loving myself type. I needed to take some time and love myself. With actions.
I have found four ways to love myself God’s way (as opposed to Netflix’s way).
Back in college, I had to read John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted. In it, he writes, “Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is to sleep.” Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a break. It doesn’t have to be a stop from all of your daily responsibilities. Let’s be honest, if you’re a parent, you can’t just take a “mental health day” from your responsibilities as parents. You can, however, take mini breaks. Take a nap. Ask your wonderful husband to hold the fort for an hour as you nap. Go on a date night together. For me, taking a break is having coffee with one of my closest friends and, while sipping on our favorite espresso drinks, people-watch. If you’re struggling with guilt over the idea of taking a break - stop it! Taking a break does not mean you abandon God’s call on your life, it means that you value it so much that you are keeping yourself in tact for a lifetime in his call!
We are all created uniquely. The way you energize is part of the beauty of being fearfully and wonderfully made. As an extrovert, spending time with friends who love Jesus and encourage me in the Word of God is one of the best ways for me to recharge my energy level. These are the friends who know me and love me and who I can be my glorious blunt self around. These are the friends who pray for me and laugh with me and cry with me. For introverts, spending time reflecting and meditating on God is how you reenergize. One of my friends is a writer, and comes up with poems and short stories and longer stories from her time with the Lord. Another friend of mine paints.
Spend some time and praise the Lord for everything he has done. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Look back on the last week, month, year of your life and start worshiping God for what he has done in your life and in your heart. Coming to the Lord and resting in his presence is a beautiful thing we have access to as God’s people. I think it’s part of our genetic make up. When we come into God’s presence, something in us feels at home. Nothing realigns our soul better than connecting with our Creator.
I love how the psalmist writes, “O my soul, praise the Lord!” There are times in our lives where we need to speak the Truth into our soul. Thinking it helps, but there’s just something about speaking the words and having your ears listen to those words. It is perfectly normal for me to run to the bathroom on a blue day, look at myself in the mirror and tell my reflection, “Are you kidding me, soul? Praise the Lord!” Scour the Bible and start proclaiming God’s truth into your soul!
You are precious to God, and He thought you are worth his Son. You are worth loving. Please remember that.