The limitations and confinements of stay-at-home advisory has brought about many conversations on how to make the most of your time through the encouragement of self-care. But is self-care a value we should have as Christian believers or is that selfish and self-serving?
Consider when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is. "Jesus replied: 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 neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 23:37-38) Often we stop at "Love your neighbor". But the importance of "as yourself" should not be lost. Because as believers we must continue to navigate what does loving yourself look like through the perspective of God. The synergy between loving God and therefore loving self as God loves, creates a space not only for self-care but how we love our neighbors, even our enemies. Through loving ourselves God loves us creates this overflow of love for others; one that does not dry up versus “love” we muster out of our own strength. As we push into how we are seen by God and how we see God, it creates an outer and inner dialogue about self-care not only in its emotional, mental and physical benefits, but how it all integrates with the spiritual as well. Additionally, this constant pursuit of God is meant for all times (both in the good and in the bad). Therefore, if we continue to pursue God (in this time) not only are we creating spaces to love ourselves, but love others (neighbors and enemies).
So I hope and pray for the continual pursuit of God, in doing so fostering a space of care for one’s self and for others. I pray that at any point in the journey of self-care and serving we feel pressure, anxiety, guilt and/or sadness, that God’s love brings gentleness and kindness to self and to the journey.
Growing in Crisis
Often challenging times become a catalyst for assessing what is important in one's life as well as humanity. With that, a part of one's assessment may include identity in faith. Since these moments of reflection are occurring in trying times - where the normalcy of life is interrupted - one may find themselves attempting to unpack everything simultaneously. For instance, one's emotions in crisis and weighted topics - such as evil. This can naturally lead to feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed in thought. So what is one to do?
First off, be encouraged by the desire to start or continue navigating faith. It is always a beautiful thing when one seeks to develop and grow in an attribute of one's life.
Second, consider a buffet station. If an individual attempts to pile every food available on one plate, then it would be hard to tell what is on the plate and where to begin consumption. Therefore, it is often recommended to browse what food is available and portion out your food with multiple trips to the station. With that metaphor in mind, consider taking small and intentional "bites" in one's faith journey.
Ways to do so may include the following:
- Spending 15-30 minutes journaling
- Creating intentional space for prayer
- Engaging with others in discussion (by phone and/or video)
- Seeking out online media and live stream resources
- And reaching out to Babson's Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) Chaplains and Director for support
Lastly, one's faith journey is tethered to one's life journey. Meaning the reflections and processes in this window of time will continue when we "return to normal". So be patient, gentle, and kind to self in this chapter of faith exploration.
Reflecting on Crisis
I find myself reflecting, once again, on the unpredictability and complexity of living. In the daily routines and planning, this reality (that life is unpredictable and complex) can get muffled. In recent days, COVID-19 has been the abrupt catalyst that has cut through the fog and reminds me of not only the unpredictability and complexity, but also the frailty.
Inevitably this catalyst brings about difficult emotions - grief, anger and fear to name a few. It is an intention decision to write "difficult emotions" rather than "negative emotions", because these are valid experiences worthy of our acknowledgement. It makes sense to be grieved that special moments were taken, local businesses are struggling, people are experiencing loss of jobs, and we are losing lives. It makes sense to be angered by the inhumane treatment of people - whether it be racism, ageism, or a lack of care for medical workers. It makes sense to have a general fear regarding the virus. Therefore, creating a space for difficult emotions are not only valid, but necessary.
The challenge is how do we create the necessary room (for these difficult emotions) without losing hope. This is where faith has been a pivotal part for me. Some of the ways I engage my faith are as follows:
- Checking in on friends, family and co-worker (praying for the things we discuss and when able praying with others during the check in)
- Having quiet meditative times in scripture (especially reflecting on the Season of lent and the upcoming Holy week)
- Listening to live streams related to Christian faith as well as discussion from multi-faith
- Prayer of lament and thanksgiving
Admittedly some days are harder than others, but that is what makes it a challenge. I am encouraged in knowing that it’s not about processing perfectly, but to process.