In our culture of self-sustainability, self-help, and self-care, this sounds preposterous. “Stop taking care of yourself.” Walk into any bookstore and you’ll immediately find an array of self-help books. Scroll through Pinterest for a variety of betterment ideas. Glance at Instagram for a lot of post-workout selfies and green smoothie photos. You get the idea. We are surrounded with a myriad of ways to care for ourselves. Which is exactly why the title of this post seems so aggressive and anti-YOU. But its not. Read on, friends.
A few months back, I had the privilege of attending a wonderful conference with my husband. Kid-free. Hotel. Enjoyable conference. Refreshment. Rest. <insert abrupt, screeching record sound here> Wait, did I say rest? Right. Well, I anticipated rest. The first night was wrought with the strangeness of a hotel room with an extra bed we didn’t need, a bit of anxiety, and so on. I didn’t sleep. The following day was busy. Conference. Wal-Mart, late night arrival back at the hotel. Ahhhh. Now, we could rest. Right. Did I say rest, again? The second night was complete with a shaking room (seriously, still have no clue), intoxicated hotel guests talking loudly in the halls, and so on. We weren’t at some dumpy motel either. My husband made sure we were at a nice, safe, reputable hotel. So, cue second night of no sleep, and a desperate, more than usual, need for coffee the following morning.
My go-to Starbucks beverage has always been a Vanilla Latte. I loved it in high school, and I love it now (though I take far less syrup in it now!). Unfortunately, in my old age (read: 31), apparently my stomach can’t handle fancy coffee drinks anymore, but that morning I NEEDED a good strong coffee with extra espresso and the whole nine yards, so I splurged. It was worth the uncomfortable tummy effects, and it was awesome…until I spilled it on the floor under my chair at the conference, before I had the chance to enjoy even half of it. I can’t make this stuff up. Don’t cry over spilled coffee.
My life could be a sitcom most days.
I think my husband thought I was going to come unglued right then and there. Bless his heart. His look was either of concern for me, or for the people around me; maybe both. I’m not sure, but his face revealed his uncertainty in that moment. (I don’t do well with no sleep…not to mention spilled coffee. I’m working on it.)
I survived, but here is where it gets good (i.e., where God wrecked shop in my heart…).
There was a resounding theme that day and I continued to be encouraged through scripture and song, reminding me of the rest found in Jesus. I was struck with the realization that I often try so hard to take the care of myself, upon myself, that I end up exhausting myself through my efforts. Do you follow? In my efforts to find rest, I was using up more energy and heaping more burden upon myself. Oh, the irony.
In that moment, that day, I was forced to look past my exhaustion, and find soul refreshment in God. I had no choice in the face of complete exhaustion. I was overwhelmed, honestly, with the realization that I had been taking care of myself for so long, and not allowing myself to be cared for by the mighty creator of this world.
The creator of my soul. MY creator.
I was reminded of Psalm 23.
I read it through again today. I wrote it down. (Quick – Grab your Bible!)
- lets me lie down
- leads me to quiet waters
- renews my life
- leads me down right paths
- is with me
- comforts me
- nourishes me
- anoints me
- pursues me with goodness and a faithful love
Because of what HE does, my cup overflows. Not like an overflowing plate of STUFF that is burdensome…no. An overflowing cup. Like a creamy vanilla latte (or whatever you prefer in your mug) that doesn’t empty out on the floor or cause tummy trouble. Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to this cup. Friends, this cup is GOOD, because our Father is GOOD!
A shepherd guides his sheep, not the other way around. I don’t find rest because I chase it down, but because He leads me there. The path I think looks peaceful, may actually be steep and strenuous. I don’t have to exhaust myself, running from place to place, seeking rest. I seek Him, and He provides what I need.
God tells His people, in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” and Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.
So, while I don’t condemn “taking care of yourself” in practical ways, or drifting off to sleep when your body needs physical rest, I challenge you to find your soul’s rest in Jesus. By all means, go get that pedicure and nap when the baby does! Remember, though, that you, my friend, were created to need physical re-charge, as well as emotional, mental, and spiritual refreshment. Let us not forsake the latter.
I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. – Psalms 62:1
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. – Psalms 62:5