How to find balance is one of life’s perpetual questions, and its answer is one of life’s most elusive. No matter what season of life we are in, we have multiple responsibilities and roles to manage. The particularities differ for each of us, yet the desire to find balance is a struggle to which most of us can relate. In my own wrestling in this area, one of the biggest tensions I feel is between caring for others and taking time to care for myself.

Through many times of not hitting the mark, I’ve come to learn that if we don’t take time for self-care—and particularly for nurturing our first calling as a child of God—eventually we’ll find ourselves running dry as we tend to our other callings. As a result, we’re not likely to find fulfillment in them the way we might normally.

I’m at my best when I take time to connect with God, exercise and be creative—if not daily, then on a regular basis. Yet if something must get cut out of the calendar, these things are the first to go. That’s why it’s important to remember that self-care isn’t something to do only when we feel dried up or have time for it. Rather, we must drink regularly and deeply of the living water Jesus offers us.

I think our difficulty in making this time a priority is part of the reason God not only gave us permission but commanded us to take time for sabbath. Instead of thinking of this commandment as a “have to,” we should see it as a gift, a boundary that enables us to live more fully into the person God has created and called us to be.

This is why I make a clear connection between the sabbath and self-care. If we don’t take time to have our cup filled, connect with God and, as a result, be renewed on a regular basis, we won’t have any reservoir to draw from when life is especially demanding. When this happens, it’s harder for us to offer ourselves the compassion and kindness we need, much less to be the instruments of God’s peace and love that we desire to be.

For many, and maybe especially for women, taking time for self-care can feel countercultural. We’ve been conditioned to think that taking time to care for ourselves is selfish or even that sacrificing our own needs and desires is a mark of the faithful.

I look at it a bit differently. Only by taking the time to listen for God’s still, small voice are we able to hear the truths that sustain us in all our other roles. God wants us to hear these truths more than any other: “You are beautiful. You are loved. You are enough.”

Kari van Wakeren
Kari van Wakeren is a pastor of First Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Minn., and author of Bubble Wrap Girl (Beaver's Pond Press).

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