Dog-tired and bone-weary, I slipped into Seat 33A. Loose ends tied up. Last minute details checked off. Hugs hugged. Home assignment begun.
What kept me moving in the weeks prior was the hope of a few days in a quiet cabin in the woods. A little stream providing rhythm for birds’ melodies outside the window. Long, shaded trails of leaf-strewn paths. No responsibilities. Fresh air. Slowness. Quiet rest.
This, as you may have guessed, did not happen.
Things to do. Places to go. People to see. You know the drill.
Praying – well, whining to God – about the lack of rest, I heard His whisper back, “Patty, you define rest too narrowly. You think it is about the right mix of quiet and nature. But I AM your rest. Lean into My sustaining care for you.”
In that moment, I knew I was done with self care.
Somehow I had mistakenly concluded I was responsible for determining the care for my wellbeing.
But I am invited into something far better: Leaning into and resting in God’s sustaining care for me.
Just to be clear, I am not opposed to what we typically label “self care practices”. Not at all. It’s not particular practices I am abandoning. It’s the notion that I am my own best hope for sheltering my wellbeing or that it’s all on me to ensure I am grounded, nourished, and rested. Because…
…I’m not that good at it. I rarely know what I really need at any given moment, much less how to get it.
Abandoning self care requires some adjustments in thinking and a perspective shift from circumstantial rest to Jesus being ever-present as Rest in me. Here’s where that has taken me.
1. A deepening trust in God’s good and kind heart.
I’m relieved to move from the idea of providing my own self care to leaning into God’s sustaining care for me. But this shift pushes on fundamental beliefs about God’s character. Can I trust both His efficacy and eagerness in caring for me?
Honestly, I have at times envisioned God as a foreman with a clipboard, ready to assign another task, rather than the God-servant with a towel, ready to wash my tired feet.
But I’d have to ignore a lot of evidence to not agree He is rich in love, longing to show compassion, full of mercy. The hand caring for me has my name engraved on it.
So, that leads to #2…
2. Growing in understanding how to live in hesed.
The rich Hebrew word hesed describes God’s way of relating to us in His lovingkindness and covenant faithfulness; steadfast love infused with His tender grace and persistent mercies, going beyond the requirements of an obligation.
Hesed sustains. Living in such generous affection and devotion empowers me to lean into the rest and strength provided through God’s care-full love for me.
Genesis 39:21 may be my favorite picture of hesed. “The Lord was with Joseph in prison, extending to him hesed.” Joseph. Rejected, betrayed, falsely accused, forgotten Joseph. In prison. Experiencing hesed. That tells me God’s care for my wellbeing is not limited to optimal conditions.
When it comes to being cared for, which do I really want? Ideal circumstances or God’s loving presence embodied in kindness in both agreeable and severe places?
You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love (hesed). My life was preserved by your care. Job 10:12 NLT
3. Realizing my sense of wellbeing is only part of the equation.
Like any good Father, God wants us to experience healthy relationships, fulfilling work, a satisfying sense of wellbeing. Although true, this is incomplete.
Our Father most wants to nurture our communion with Jesus as He dwells in us, shaping us to be more like Him. But how will we become like Jesus if our lives are nothing like His? In wilderness testings and lonely gardens God tenderly weaves threads of Christlikeness into our beings.
The wellness of my being and wholeness of my heart is not contingent on a self-sourced ordering of my life but dependent on experiencing the fullness of God through Jesus. So I will trust Him when He uses brokenness to make the soil of my soul ready for seeds of His nature.
Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:7 MSG
4. Paying attention when God says stop and receive.
“Go and give” tends to be our default understanding of God’s commands. But He also says, “Come away with Me”.
Abandoning self care doesn’t mean stepping away from responsibility as much as it means stepping into responsiveness to God’s ways and nudges. It doesn’t mean not having boundaries, but giving God permission to draw my boundary lines.
One way God invites me into His sustaining care is through Sabbath. More than a spiritual discipline or self care practice, keeping Sabbath expands my soul’s capacity to contain the rest and strength of God.
Rest is not simply recovery and renewal. Rest also prepares us for what’s ahead. As we soak in His presence God is care-fully giving us what we need for the coming moments.
Ezekiel’s description (ch. 47) of the river flowing from God’s sanctuary describes what we long for and need for our wellbeing: nourishment, health, healing, shade, beauty, abundance, life, fruitfulness, growth, consistency. All available because living water flows to us from the sanctuary.
Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love (hesed) is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. Psalm 69:16 NLT
5. A fresh richness in dwelling in Jesus as He dwells in me.
It is not the practice of caring for my body and soul that has been off kilter, but my self-determining, self-reliant, self-sourcing ways.
Jesus is clear about the cure when we are weary and overwhelmed – come and learn from Him. (Mt. 11:28-30) Jesus’ ways of rest are learned with eyes fixed, ears open, heart anchored to Him, ready to respond to His invitations and counsel.
So, I’ve committed anew to abiding. Leaning into His caring presence, soaking in His fragrance, delighting in being with Jesus, creating space for Him to be who He is in me. Rest. And oh so much more.
How about you? Are you ready to trade in the idea of self care for a lifestyle of leaning into God’s generous and kind sustaining care for you? I’d love to hear what you are thinking!
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.