Recently I was getting ready for the day, going through my routine of putting in hair products and applying my 5-minute face (ok… maybe it takes a tiny bit longer than five minutes) like I do every day. So often this time becomes my “thinking time,” and this particular day was no different. As I put on my favorite eye liner and mascara, the thought came to my mind, “What is the most important reason to take care of myself?” I have lots of answers for why I believe it’s a good idea: It’s a discipline that helps me feel like my job as a mom is important. I know it has plenty of health benefits. I’ve heard that there are connections between taking good care of your body and how it affects your emotional and mental well-being. But what’s the foundation – the deepest ‘why’ – behind its importance?
What’s the ‘why’?
I see the term “Self-Care” all over the place. And especially for moms, the emphasis on it has seemed to explode in recent years. Just about everyday on social media I see memes telling me to make time for it (or for me, rather); that after days on end of caring for others, I need to just do something for myself because I deserve it. But so much of it just doesn’t sit quite right with me. Not because I think that caring for our bodies, minds, and souls is unimportant. But it’s the motive – the reason we care for ourselves – that makes all the difference in the world.
I believe that foundationally, the reason we’re to care for ourselves is to bring glory to God. He made us, and we are His (Psalm 100:3). We’re made in His image (Gen. 1:27), and called to glorify Him with these bodies He has given us and bought back from sin and death by the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20). Our bodies, minds, and souls have been given to us as a gift, and as Believers it’s our highest privilege to surrender them to be used to point to our loving and powerful Creator. We take care of our bodies so they can be used effectively to build His Kingdom as much as is up to us to do so.
The problem with so much of the “self-care” stuff out there today is that the foundation isn’t about glorifying God, but glorifying self. When that is the case, it easily becomes a way of justifying over-indulgence, selfishness and discontent. Even is Christians, falling into this self-centered rut can happen before we even realize it. How do we know it’s happened?
When we become demanding, irritable, and sorry for ourselves when we don’t get it… when we become grumpy when we miss getting a shower because the newborn won’t settle down. Or when we justify being snappy after we missed hours of sleep because of sick kiddos. Or when we resent our makeup routine being cut short because of needing to clean up spilled milk before rushing out the door. Or we give in to self-pity when the budget doesn’t allow for that really nice lotion or those expensive supplements.
Self-centered self-care can also mean listening to feelings rather than truth. If “self-care” means eating a bowl of ice cream when I’ve already had too much sugar that day, then that’s not actually caring well for myself. Or if I opt for time alone when I know God wanted me to meet a need of someone else’s, that is not ultimately refreshing. Or when I choose to sleep in when I should get up and exercise, that’s not truly what’s best for me. Or when it feels better to browse Instagram than spend time in God’s Word, it’s definitely not self-care. Caring for ourselves well often means disciplining ourselves to do what we don’t want to do, because that is ultimately what is the wisest thing for us.
A term that Judah and I started using a few years ago is Self-Stewardship. It implies that we are caring for a body that’s not ultimately ours, but God’s. No matter what term we use in the discussion about taking care of these bodies we’ve been given, the way we as Christians talk about it ultimately needs to shift from self to God (and as a side note, if we do use the term “self-care,” we should think of it as falling into the same category as “self-control” rather than “self-indulgence.”)
When glorifying God becomes the number one motive for taking care of our bodies and minds and souls, there is infinitely greater joy found in it. When we look at it through the lens of honoring the Lord, we can see more clearly what is truly the best way to care for ourselves in each situation. We remember that the first and best way we can care for ourselves is spending time in His presence, allowing Him to minister to our souls as we delight in Him. We see those moments of slipping away to enjoy a cup of coffee or taking a hot shower or getting a haircut (I love getting haircuts) to be undeserved gifts from a loving Heavenly Father. And when we leave this area in His hands, we can joyfully give it up when He calls us to lay down the “right” to our own care to love someone else in His name, just like Jesus did when he “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8).
It’s all for Him
God knows us better than we know ourselves. And when our lives are fully given to Him, He provides exactly what we need when we need it. The more we seek Him, the more our souls are satisfied and refreshed in ways that can be found in no other source. He is our Living Water. Whether we realize it or not, He is our deepest longing and need. When our souls are panting, our hearts parched, and our bodies weary, He is the One who satisfies us and gives us rest (Matt. 11:28; Psalm 42:1). We were made to be fulfilled in Him and Him alone, and if we try to find this anywhere else, we’ll be left extremely wanting. But if we look to Him, we’ll be eternally satisfied.
So, let’s care for ourselves for the glory of God. He’s beyond worthy of it.