When I finally retired the invisible cape I was wearing in 2010, I literally thought I would crash and burn, but instead I soared!
There were several Scriptures I was directed to study and embrace during this time. Two of which profoundly impacted me. One is found in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will RENEW their STRENGTH. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will RUN and NOT GROW WEARY, they will walk and NOT BE faint.” The second is in Proverbs 4:23, “Above ALL ELSE, guard your heart, for EVERYTHING you do flows from it” [emphasis mine on both].
It was a sobering realization at age 48 that somehow, at some time I had stopped guarding my heart! I did a fantastic job of guarding and caring for others. Swooping down to fix any and everything that I could make better.
By not guarding my heart with the Lord, I was doing many things, swooping in and down on many situations. Meeting many needs I thought were my responsibility and role. To my shock and dismay, I came to realize I was actually interfering in areas and not allowing natural consequences, among others things, from taking place that would allow God to do His best work.
I was running ahead of God.
In my head I would repeat one of the following mantras: “I’ve got this!”, “I can fix this!”, “I want them to be happy!” I literally was flying so far and so fast ahead of God. He allowed me to keep flying until my cape was ripped to shreds and I was losing altitude. NO wind left to keep that cape airborne. All by God’s allowance and sovereignty.
Right before I crashed and the lights went out, the Holy Spirit caused me to “break the silence” just enough to a wise and Godly soul who, by the way, is a fantastic listener. She took my tattered cape off while at the same time telling me I didn’t need it. She then took my hand and guided me to a place of following Christ instead of leaving Him behind in the dust as I flew by!
She also advised me to seek Christian counseling. Even more, she offered to be that friend who would walk beside me to get to a better place. To date she is still walking right beside me. I praise God that I am at a better place. I am even flying but in no need of a cape. I have holy energy and holy guidance.
Some of my journey to get me where I am today included a realization of needing self care! It sounds selfish. Or at least it did to me when a professional counselor started to walk me down this road of self care. I was taken all over Scripture but it started with the one verse in Proverbs that warns you to “guard your heart!”
My first step to self care was: God first.
His voice had to be the loudest…even if it contradicted those closest to me! Let me just say…this was the hardest of all self care instructions because I was a “people pleaser!” Notice I said, “was!” I am a recovered “people pleaser!”
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy when people are happy with me and pleased but I had to come to the sobering realization that in order to please God, many times it would not please people. I was taken to the following Scripture which I now have to read daily to keep from reverting back to my old ways:
Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
This Scripture was big for me. God looks at the heart. Man looks at the outward appearance. Our motives matter the most and NO man sees motives as well as God. I have learned I have to look at actions, not words in the lives of others!
Also, fear can overcome those of us who are people pleasers, or recovering people pleasers, so the next Scripture is important to know and apply.
Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
God continues to allow tests in my life so that I can see where my trust truly lies and not get caught in a snare. These tests are healthy and good for me. I don’t ever want to be hindered by the “fear that man can place on me.” I want to reverently fear God, serve Him and be content with that audience of ONE!
I have been warned on numerous occasions to not get caught up in the criticism of man nor the praise. Satan will have a field day in either one–discouragement or pride. I also was directed to the story of when Jesus came to visit the home of Mary and Martha in Scripture. In Luke 10: 38-41 Martha was critical of Mary. What did Jesus say? “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will NOT be taken away from her” [emphasis mine].
There are about 100 lessons in this small story. Notice the word “chosen.” We all get a choice. Martha was Mary’s sister….family…but yet Martha criticized Mary. Understand this—when you are pleasing God, those closest to you may criticize you. The best for Mary at that time was to be “sitting at Jesus’ feet.”
The second step to self care for me was delivered in the simple statement, “If you don’t take care of yourself, then how will you be healthy enough to take care of anyone else?”
What a profound statement which resonated down in the depths of my soul. The next thing that was said before I could respond was—“You only have one body and there is not a replacement. God calls it a ‘temple.'” I was encouraged to study God’s Word to learn of His care and concern for His temple.
With that there was no more excuse for putting my self care on the back burner. I was encouraged to take time for myself–sleep, food, exercise, fun, and hobbies! Two interests that have grown into big hobbies for me are reading and business. I was a business major at Clemson and now that our kids are grown and gone, I have made time to pursue some passions, incorporating my college degree and interest in business with God’s call on my life in ministry. Business, no matter what business, can be a tremendous opportunity for ministry but we have to be intentional!
I don’t know what self care may look like to you. Maybe it is getting your nails done or taking a break and letting someone else coach your kids. It may mean taking long walks, or getting a new hair cut, going to bed earlier or saying no to the hundredth fundraiser or business dinner. It may mean everyone fixes their own dinner two nights a week (in some countries, sandwiches are luxuries). The point I am making is….TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF…..PHYSICALLY!
Third, and extremely important to self care, is our emotional health!
Our emotions are God-given. They can be to our benefit or our detriment. Our emotions need attention and need to be validated but they are not to dominate our lives. This takes work to embrace our emotions and to sort out which ones are running wild and taking a life of their own and potentially dominating our lives. Emotions were given to us to be healthy and allow us to feel and express sadness, happiness, excitement, disappointment, anger, disgust or surprise. But when we allow them to go into “overdrive” they can reek havoc in our lives.
For example, you have heard it said, “When emotions are high, discernment is low.” At 56 years of age I can tell you that is 100% true. When our emotions are really high, whether it be extreme happiness or sadness or anger, we should never makes decisions. Learning to manage our emotions is not done in a day. This is something we learn and pay attention to and work on all the time. If you feel your emotions are in overdrive, bouncing or at an extreme for a long period of time, then this is time for a professional counselor to be invited into your life.
Yes, emotions are God-given, but without proper help, when we are in an “overdrive emotional state,” Satan can slip in and deceive us, playing on our emotions, especially at opportune times such as the death of a loved one, a loss of a job or dream, a huge win or when we have been wronged.
Too much here to unpack in just one post so let me emphasize one point. Emotions are God-given and good. God gives us food and drink, which are good, but we can overindulge in either. We can also overindulge our emotions such as when we feed anger. What you feed grows. A trained professional can help you see things you cannot see yourself and often can bring to light the irrational thinking you have allowed.
Mishandling emotions can happen gradually or be learned behavior from a person of influence in your life and you end up managing your emotions just as they did, which could be totally wrong but it is the only thing you know. It becomes your normal which is not normal at all. It doesn’t make you crazy; it makes you wrong. You have to humble yourself to change.
The great news is God gives grace and the power to change and handle things in a Christ-like way. Paul called it continuing to work out your salvation. We are all a work in progress. We all have edges that need smoothing and refining. Remember that a large part of self care is learning to manage our emotions.
The fourth important part of self care is what we are allowing into our lives.
>Do we have healthy relationships?
>What are we watching?
>What and who are are we listening to?
Let’s flesh this out a little. A huge part of self care is in what we allow:
1) In our relationships.
It needs to be a two-way street. I’m not necessarily saying keep score but healthy relationships consist of loyalty, love, honesty, giving and taking. FYI—if you have a relationship with someone who does all the taking, it is not a relationship at all. You have a user on your hands (extremely unhealthy).
2) In what we watch–garbage in, garbage out.
Just read all the really good studies the world’s top neurologists have been producing about how what we watch affects our outlook, our emotions, and majorly affects our subconscious. Today we live in an age of information. If you take the time to research, you for sure will change what you watch if you care at all about yourself and those you love!
3) The same goes for listening. Who are you listening to? And what are you listening to?
After doing much personal research about the subject of protecting my mind and how I think, I now majorly limit what I watch and what I listen to. I have been intentionally self caring for my mind since 2010. By far this has totally brought GREAT health to me. I’m not the most popular conversationalist in the group because I can’t speak to the latest TV show or movie or newsflash but I also don’t judge people who do.
I have to self care for Sherry. I can’t control what is in someone else’s best interest. I even have a trusted friend who feeds me the news on a need to know basis. Watching the screaming and fighting that happens on TV these days is not at all healthy for me personally!
I want to make one final point. It is true …as the mind goes, there goes the body. There is so much truth to that statement. I heard it when I was younger and didn’t give it much thought, but today, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty—what you dwell on and think about can take yourself to that very place. That is why in God’s Word He specifically tells us to “take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:15). And Paul instructs the believer in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely. whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”
I want a life of peace. God’s peace. Protecting what I watch and what and who I listen to are key to living that life of peace. Allowing others into my life who add value, who hold me accountable, who speak truth into my life has helped me in these areas. One of the best decisions I have ever made was listening to wise counsel concerning self care. It keeps me growing into all that God has for me to be and to do. It frees me of that tattered cape which I wore for way too long.
Do you need balance in any, or all, of these areas? Are you tired of trying to mend that cape and continuing to plod along? Does self care sound selfish to you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would encourage you to go before the Lord. Spend time in His Word and ask Him to take the cape off and help you find balance that only comes from a life of peace found in God.
“We can be tired, weary and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into our bodies energy, power and strength.” ~Charles Stanley