I spent a couple of days last week in a Mental Health First Aid course. It was interesting and I learned a lot. But there was one concept that kept coming up, that really made me think.
Over and over through-out the course, there was an emphasis on self-care. The idea that we can only help others in their times of need if we're looking after ourselves. If we're always giving and not doing things to recharge, then we're eventually going to have problems giving to other people because we have nothing left to give.
As I walked away from the course, I started thinking about how this idea applies when it comes to other areas of life. It's important for all sorts of things in life.
One of the things that came to mind for me has to do with this blog. If I'm not taking the time to read things others write and to write things no one will see, then I have nothing to give when I write here. That's a little example.
Another thought that came to mind has to do with serving in ministry in the church. I love what I do with leading and helping with women's Bible studies. I love serving the women in my church in this way. But, if I'm not taking time to spend reading my Bible and growing in my relationship with God outside what I do to prepare for that, I don't have much, if anything, to give when I'm involved in those Bible studies.
And if I'm not spending time with friends who I can really talk to and share more details about what's going on in my life, then I don't have much in me to give when I notice a lady at Bible study seems to need someone to listen and care. Because I've been giving, but I haven't done anything to look after myself so I have something to give to others.
It makes me wonder why this is.
Why do we struggle so much with taking care of ourselves? Where does this idea that we need to always be giving come from?
I wonder if maybe it comes, at least partially, from a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-40, where He is asked what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answers this way,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself." (vs.37-29, NIV, emphasis mine)
It's that second part that we need to stop and think about it a bit, I think.
We get the loving God with everything we have part. We even understand about loving others. But, I know for a long time I missed all that Jesus said when He talked about loving our neighbours. Jesus didn't just say were to love our neighbours. He said we were to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
It's natural to love ourselves and to think of ourselves. We end up in trouble when we do it to exclusion of everything and everyone else. But, maybe we need to take that love we have for ourselves and learn how to love others with it, without ignoring ourselves and our own needs in the process.
We've gotten good at loving others, but in the process we've trained ourselves to put our needs on the shelf and ignore them. But we can only do that for so long before we find ourselves in trouble.
We can't let our needs and thinking of ourselves take over everything. We should be loving and serving those around us. But, I don't think that means we can never do anything for ourselves.
Sometimes we get to a point where we just need to get away from everything that everyone is asking of us. And that's not wrong. I just wonder if we've reached that point, if we've waited too long to start looking after ourselves.
What if we regularly scheduled things into our weeks and time into our lives to look after ourselves. so that we can give and serve others better the rest of the time?