Though we can easily rationalize the concept and importance of Self-Care in theory, few of us can engage in this intentional time without wading first through some sense of selfishness or personal justification. Our resistance immediately goes up because, well, people need us, after all, and when you’re needed, what feelings of shame might overcome us if we were found in that moment in any self-serving state.
Hamster on the Wheel
If anyone else has ever suggested Self-Care to you, then chances are, you are the type of person that doesn’t just settle easily into a massage anyway, particularly if there are time-sensitive stressors on the table. And let’s face it, there will always be time-sensitive stressors on the table. It’s likely that slowing any sort of optimization of productivity goes directly against the grain of which you are made; optimization of productivity is what winds the clock, after all, isn’t it?
But if we can remove our pre-conceptualization about Self-Care and rid ourselves of visualizations such as extended vacations and idle lounging, we can get real with ourselves about what this concept is truly about: creating a space for natural rejuvenation. The trick here is that there isn’t so much doing as there is being.
Our Own Need for Photosynthesis
Consider the vegetable garden. Roots that grow wide and deep, sprawling vines, and luscious leaves, delicate and purposeful pollen, all working in perfect harmony to produce an end goal of some type of nourishment: vitamin-rich, sustaining, and delicious food. But even food needs food before it can become the type of resource that will nourish another body.
If you’ll think back to high school biology, you might remember an interesting process unique to plant life. Photosynthesis, in which the vegetables soak up sunlight and transform the energy into life giving sugars that feed and fortify the food that will eventually feed and fortify the people.
Though we do not photosynthesize, exactly, we can learn something important from this process about how we are able to rejuvenate our spirit and avoid total and complete depletion. Photosynthesis is inherent in the plant. It was a part of the elemental design for growth. The plant did not have to go to school to learn how to do it; it did not receive a gift card seasonally to purchase it. No, the most successful life-giving processes will be closely aligned with our God-given nature. They will be the types of activities that are almost effortless to us, the tasks that don’t seem like work or even a break from the ordinary, because they are so deeply intrinsic to who we are.
Our work, then, becomes simply to protect the space that allows this natural process to occur. It is to assign a time of unavailability and power down all the automated processes. As a human, it’s true we have an added challenge to contend with that the vegetable garden does not. We have—quite literally—endless engagements vying for our sixteen waking hours and many even burning at the edges of those relentlessly.
Remember Who is in Control
But the reality is (spoiler alert!) in all of our busyness and productivity, efficiency and efficacy, God is still the one in control of it all, anyway. There is really nothing we can do on our own.
The illusion of control we’ve created is convincing, to be sure. It lulls us to sleep at night with promises of security. It pats the back of our fretful fears that we didn’t do enough or say enough or offer enough to complete the daily mission. But the truth is, our work in life is sourced not from our own strength, our own productivity, or our own accomplishments, it is sourced from our surrender of our lives before God and our asking of Him to make it so.
In this moment of surrender, our only job is to lay just where it is we have been rooted and soak up some sun. In turn, He will feed us and fortify us, lead us into the natural process of whatever it is we need in that moment to grow vitamin rich, sustaining, and delicious in all of our endeavors.